The annual lead-up to the Peachtree Road Race for wheelchair athletes saw one world record broken and another just seconds away from a new time as racers crossed the finish line in Cedartown on Tuesday night.
The fun is set to get underway this evening in Cedartown, and local drivers and residents should take note of road closures coming in the College Street area starting around 6:15 p.m. for the Cedartown International Wheelchair 5K.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the authorization of up to $397 million in bonds to build a new baseball stadium for the Braves in Cobb County.
Three Cobb County residents opposed the authorization and appealed a Cobb County Superior Court ruling approving the bond issuance to the high court.
In the unanimous opinion published Monday, Justice David Nahmias wrote that an intergovernmental contract used to authorize the bonds is valid. He also wrote that the issuance of the bonds does not violate the state's Constitution or revenue bond laws and that the process used to validate the bonds was not improper.
The Braves announced in November 2013 that they would be leaving Turner Field near downtown Atlanta for a new stadium to be built in Cobb County near the interchange of interstates 285 and 75. The team plans to begin playing at the stadium, called SunTrust Park, for the 2017 season.
The three Cobb residents who challenged the bonds — Larry Savage, Richard Pellegrino and attorney T. Tucker Hobgood — argued the lower court judge's ruling validating the bonds was incorrect. They argued that the agreement between the county and the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority is not a valid intergovernmental agreement; that the project improperly uses public tax revenue for a private facility; and that the bonds can't be approved without a referendum.
Monday's opinion says it's clear that those who sought the bonds "relied on the prior decisions of this Court interpreting Georgia's Constitution and revenue bond law when structuring the financing for the new Braves stadium project." While "aspects of the deal structure at issue may push the law about as far as it can go, it does not cross the line into illegality," the opinion says.
The opinion also says it does not discount the concerns that the three Cobb residents raised "about the wisdom of the stadium project and the commitments Cobb County has made to entice the Braves to move there." But it says those concerns have to do with public policy controlled by elected officials.
Mark those calendars and make sure to get out of the way of College Street on the evening of June 30, because the annual Cedartown Wheelchair Athlete Training Camp and 5K is nearly upon Polk County once again.
BOSTON (AP) — Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia won his second Boston Marathon on Monday, two years after he donated the medal from his first title to the city in the memory of bombing victims.
Kenya's Carolina Rotich won the women's race in an unofficial 2 hours, 24 minutes, 55 seconds, outsprinting Mare Dibaba down Boylston Street to win by 4 seconds.
When Desisa won the 2013 race, there wasn't much time to celebrate. Hours after he crossed the finish line, two bombs exploded on Boylston Street and turned his victory into an afterthought. As the city mourned the three killed and 260 wounded in the explosions, he returned to Boston to donate the medal.
Now Desisa has a Boston title he can enjoy.
He won in an unofficial time of 2:09:17.
Yemane Adhane Tsegay was 31 seconds back, followed by Kenya's Wilson Chebet. Dathan Ritzenhein of Rockford, Michigan, was the first American, in seventh.
Defending champion Meb Keflezighi of San Diego was one spot behind him a year after he became the first American men's champion since 1983, galvanizing the city behind him as a symbol of patriotism and resilience.
Two years after the explosions, the race took a tentative step back toward normal.
Rotich pulled away from Ethiopians Dibaba and Buzunesh Deba for her first Boston victory. She finished fourth here in 2011.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — The Atlanta Braves acquired pitcher Trevor Cahill from Arizona on Thursday night, hoping to boost a staff that's been hurt by injuries.
The Diamondbacks sent Cahill and for minor league outfielder Josh Elander and agreed to send Atlanta $6.8 million to cover the majority of Cahill's $12 million salary this year.
The 27-year-old right-hander, an All-Star with Oakland in 2010, was 3-12 with a 5.61 ERA for Arizona last season. He is 64-69 with a 4.07 ERA in six seasons.
Only opening day starter Julio Teheran, newcomer Shelby Miller and Alex Wood are guaranteed spots in the Braves' rotation. Mike Minor, who went 6-12 with a 4.77 ERA in 25 starts last season, is out indefinitely with a sore shoulder.
Braves assistant general manager John Coppolella said the Braves had their eyes on Cahill all spring.
"We thought he was a young pitcher with good stuff," Coppolella said. "We saw him four different times this spring and liked what we saw."
Cahill has suffered from shoulder stiffness but Coppolella said it was "just minor wear and tear."
"There are no red flags," Coppolella said. "He's going to give us a good shot to get us where we want to be."
To help cover Cahill's salary, Arizona will pay Atlanta seven installments of $812,500 by the first of each month from May 1 through Nov. 1 and then $1,112,500 by Dec. 1.
Cahill's contract includes a $13 million team option for 2016 with a $300,000 buyout and a $13.5 million option for 2017 with a $500,000 buyout.
The 24-year-old Elander is a .275 hitter in three seasons in the minors. He batted .219 with two homers last year at Class A Lynchburg.
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL has fined the Atlanta Falcons, stripped the organization of a draft pick and suspended team president Rich McKay from the league's Competition Committee beginning April 1 following the team's use of fake noise at home games.
In statement released Monday, the league announced that the Falcons have been fined $350,000 and will forfeit their fifth-round selection in the 2016 draft. If the Falcons have multiple picks in that round, the highest selection will be forfeited.
The NFL noted throughout the 2013 season and into the 2014 season the Falcons violated league rules that state "at no point during the game can artificial crowd noise or amplified crowd noise be played in the stadium."
The league also said Roddy White, the team's former director of event marketing, was directly responsible for the violation and would have been suspended without pay for the first eight weeks of the 2015 regular season had he still been with the club. The Falcons fired him.
The league determined that Falcons ownership and senior executives, including McKay, were unaware of the use of an audio file with artificial crowd noise. But as the senior club executive overseeing game operations, McKay bears some responsibility for ensuring that team employees comply with league rules. McKay can petition Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement to the committee no sooner than June 30.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank told The Associated Press in early February that he had seen enough of the NFL's investigation to acknowledge wrongdoing by his club.
"It's not really a fine line," Blank told the AP. "I think what we've done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong. Anything that affects the competitive balance and fairness on the field, we're opposed to, as a league, as a club and as an owner. It's obviously embarrassing but beyond embarrassing it doesn't represent our culture and what we're about."
The Falcons say 101 of 103 games have been sellouts since Blank bought the team in 2002. Actual turnouts declined during losing seasons the last two years.
Atlanta ranked 10th among the 32 NFL teams with its average home attendance of 72,130 in 2014. Construction is underway for a new $1.4 billion stadium that will replace the Georgia Dome in 2017. The new stadium will have a similar seating capacity.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
ATLANTA (AP) — John Buck, an 11-year major league veteran who was attempting to land a job with the Atlanta Braves as a backup catcher, has retired.
The 34-year-old, an All-Star in 2010 with Toronto, hit 134 home runs with seven big league teams. He hit .225 in 32 games with Seattle and the Los Angeles Angels last year after playing for the New York Mets and Pittsburgh in 2013.
He says he wants to spend more time with his family. He hit .320 with one homer in 25 at-bats for the Braves in spring training.
Buck set career highs with 20 homers and 66 RBIs with Toronto in 2010. He played his first six seasons with Kansas City.
He would have gotten a $1 million contract if added to Atlanta's 40-man roster.
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's highest court has rejected a challenge to the city of Atlanta using taxpayer revenue to help finance a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.
The unanimous opinion published Monday by the Georgia Supreme Court says the financing structure does not violate the state Constitution. Construction of the stadium for the Atlanta Falcons is already well underway.
A group of Atlanta residents was challenging the city's plan to issue $200 million in bonds for the stadium. They argued the issuance of the bonds was unconstitutional because of an amendment to a 2010 state law governing the use of the city's hotel-motel taxes.
At a hearing in May, a judge issued an order rejecting their objections and confirming and validating the bonds for the stadium. The high court upheld that ruling.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alex Rodriguez will not play in the New York Yankees' exhibition opener against Philadelphia in Clearwater on Tuesday.
Back from a season-long suspension for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez was not on the travel roster posted Monday. He could make his spring training debut Wednesday, when the Yankees host the Phillies.
Rodriguez went 0 for 2 as the designated hitter in an intrasquad game Monday. Hitting off a pitching machine, he grounded to third on the second pitch and flied out to short right on the first pitch.
The game was played before about 100 fans in mostly empty Steinbrenner Field. Rodriguez spent most the game in a chair next the first-base dugout wearing a helmet and occasionally swinging a bat as he awaited his next plate appearance. He received cheers walking to the plate from the small gathering.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman say Chase Headley will be their starting third baseman and Rodriguez will compete for at-bats at designated hitter.
Rodriguez has been working out at third and first base, and could see limited time at both.
The three-time AL MVP has not played a full season since 2007 because of the suspension, operations on both hips and other injuries.
Adam Warren will start for the Yankees Tuesday. Position players making the trip to Clearwater include outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Chris Young.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Jordan and two other NBA owners have reached new heights, making Forbes world list of billionaires.
Forbes released its list on Monday and noted that Jordan's net worth is estimated at $1 billion, thanks to his well-timed investment in the Charlotte Hornets.
Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, with a net worth of $1.6 billion, and the Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, worth $1.3 billion are also on the list. Jordan and Reinsdorf are newcomers to the list while Alexander returns for the first time since 2007.
The net worth of NBA franchise values increased this past year after the sale of Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
The 52-year-old Jordan, a Hall of Fame player who won six NBA championships with the Bulls, reached billionaire status last June, according to the magazine. This is his first year on Forbes' annual list which typically is released in March.
Jordan acquired the majority stake in the Hornets in 2010 for $175 million. Forbes last June listed Jordan's equity as owner of the Hornets is $416 million and his net worth outside of the team to be $600 million.
Topping the list of sports-related billionaires was Stanley Kroenke, who owns the NFL's St. Louis Rams. His net worth of $6.3 billion, which ranks him as the 225th richest person in the world.
He is one of 11 NFL owners on a list that include 20 billionaire sports figures.
Other NFL owners to make the list include Robert Kraft (Patriots, $4.3 billion), Jerry Jones, (Cowboys, $4.2 billion), Stephen Bisciotti (Ravens, $2.7 billion), Arthur Blank (Falcons, $2.5 billion), Robert McNair (Texans, $2.4 billion), Tom Benson (Saints, $1.9 billion), James Irsay (Colts, $1.75 billion), Daniel Snyder (Redskins, $1.7 billion), Alex Spanos (Chargers, $1.25 billion) and Jeffrey Lurie (Eagles, $1.1 billion).
See Forbes.com/billionaires for more complete list of sports-related billionaires
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Padraig Harrington captured his first PGA Tour title in more than six years Monday when he won the Honda Classic by making a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole in regulation and beating 21-year-old rookie Daniel Berger on the second playoff hole.
Leave it to Harrington to emerge the winner of the craziest final round on the PGA Tour this season.
It took two days to complete the final round. Four of the five players who had a share of the lead hit shots into the water down the stretch. That included Harrington, who appeared to throw it away when he hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made double bogey to fall one shot behind.
Harrington, a three-time major champion and resilient as ever, followed with the birdie for an even-par 70 to get into a playoff with Berger, the hometown rookie who closed birdie-birdie for a 64. They finished at 6-under 274.
Both missed birdie putts on the par-5 18th in the playoff. And on the 17th hole, the roles were reversed. Harrington got his redemption, hitting his tee shot to 3 feet. Berger, whose 7-iron into 8 feet in regulation was key in getting into the playoff, followed Harrington with a shot into the water.
Berger took double bogey. Harrington missed from 3 feet, but it didn't matter. He was a winner again on the PGA Tour for the first time since his second straight major at the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. And he's going back to the Masters.
"Believe it or not, when I get in contention I can still hit the shots," Harrington said.
The final hour was calamitous at PGA National.
Ian Poulter, who had a three-shot lead at the start of the rain-delayed final round, appeared to have recovered from water balls on consecutive holes at the end of play Sunday. He had a two-shot lead until hitting one in the water on the 11th for double bogey to lose his lead, and two in the water on the 14th for a triple bogey. Poulter hit five balls in the water in his final round for a 75.
"The good is good enough to win. I know that," Poulter said. "It's just bitterly disappointing to put myself in the position I have, to play as well as I've played ... and a couple of loose shots has cost me this tournament. It's a shame to hand tournaments away. I've handed one away this week."
Patrick Reed, tied with Harrington at 7 under, came up short on the par-3 15th and into the water for double bogey, and he never recovered. He bogeyed the next two holes and closed with a 73.
Paul Casey also had a share of the lead until a bogey on the 14th hole, and he never got it back. He missed a 20-foot birdie chance on the 18th that would have put him in a playoff and closed with a 68 to tie for third with Poulter and Russell Knox, who shot a 68.
Phil Mickelson was four shots behind when he returned Monday morning to face a 10-foot par putt on the ninth hole. He missed and didn't make a birdie. Mickelson shot a 73 and tied for 17th, six shots behind.
Harrington's last victory was at the Indonesian Open on the Asian Tour at the end of last year, and while it wasn't against a strong field, it did a world of good for his confidence. He talked earlier in the week about the royal treatment a three-time major champion gets in Asia, and that was easy to get lost on the PGA Tour.
He found himself again by playing like the Harrington of old.
Lost in all the collapses down the stretch was that the 43-year-old Harrington was five shots behind with eight holes to play when he hooked his tee shot and dropped his head walking off the 11th hole. It was enough left of the fairway to find a patch of muddied grass that had been trampled by the gallery, and he played a bold shot to a right flag over the water to 15 feet for birdie. That's where Poulter went into the water, and the three-shot swing meant Harrington was back in the game.
He followed with a 35-foot birdie on the 12th, a 7-foot birdie on the 13th and a 15-foot putt on the 14th for his fourth straight birdie and a share of the lead when Reed holed from 18 feet right before him.
Berger was not even part of the picture and only took the lead when he was done with his round. He chipped in for birdie on the 11th hole at the end of Sunday when darkness stopped the final round. And then he made two birdies at the end, including a two-putt from 40 feet on the 18th.
Berger had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th to win and just missed left of the cup. That was his last chance.
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL's salary cap is going up $10 million to $143.28 million for the 2015 season.
All 32 teams and the players' union were notified Monday of the increase, the second straight season the cap went up by at least $10 million. Adding in benefits, the league says the projected player costs will be $180.775 million per team.
The NFL's business year starts March 10, when free agency begins.
The salary cap is determined by a series of NFL revenue streams, with the players receiving 46 percent to 48 percent of those revenues, depending on the year.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kurt Busch has agreed to follow NASCAR's recommended guidelines to be eligible for eventual reinstatement.
The 2004 champion was indefinitely suspended Feb. 20 after a Delaware judge said he believed Busch likely committed an act of domestic violence against a former girlfriend and there was a "substantial likelihood" of him doing it again.
Busch lost two rounds of appeals for reinstatement before the season-opening Daytona 500 and has missed the first two races of the season. Regan Smith has replaced him in the No. 41 Chevrolet.
On Monday, NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said Busch has "agreed to our terms and conditions that must be met before he is eligible for consideration for reinstatement of his NASCAR license."
Stewart-Haas Racing, which on Monday said Smith would again drive the No. 41 this weekend at Las Vegas, said there is no timetable for Busch to meet NASCAR's guidelines.
"Kurt's willingness to embrace the conditions set forth by NASCAR is a positive step that we support," SHR said in a statement.
The specific guidelines have not been disclosed, but Higdon said an unidentified NASCAR consultant helped create them. Higdon added that Busch would need to meet the requirements "to the satisfaction of both NASCAR and the expert.
"The expert administering the reinstatement can come back with a recommendation of return, but Kurt still must satisfy NASCAR's expectations, as well," he said.
NASCAR tailors its reinstatement programs to each individual and the offense. AJ Allmendinger, for example, had to complete a program overseen by Dr. David Black, who runs NASCAR's drug-testing unit. Alllmendinger was suspended for failing a random drug test and eventually reinstated.
Jeremy Clements, who was suspended in 2013 for an inappropriate comment, was reinstated after completing a NASCAR-authorized sensitivity training program. The program was administered by sports sociologist Richard Lapchick and his staff at the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
Higdon said a domestic violence expert will oversee Busch's program, and NASCAR will not be part of the process.
Unrelated to the guidelines for NASCAR reinstatement are conditions placed on Busch by Family Court Commissioner David Jones, who granted a no-contact order for ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. Jones wrote in his opinion that he believe believes there's real possibility Busch will lash out again and has a propensity to lose control in response to disappointing or frustrating situations involving racing.
Jones ordered Busch to be evaluated to see if there is a "treatable mental health condition." He also said Busch must follow any suggested treatment plans.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have released wide receiver Harry Douglas, who was third on the team with 51 catches in 2014, and starting offensive guard Justin Blalock.
The moves follow Thursday's release of running back Steven Jackson.
Douglas, a third-round pick in 2008, had career-high totals of 85 receptions for 1,067 yards in 2013, when he started in 11 of 16 games. Douglas, a third-round draft pick from Louisville in 2008, usually was the No. 3 receiver behind Julio Jones and Roddy White.
Blalock, a second-round pick from Texas in 2007, started all 125 games in which he played, including 15 in 2014.
On his Twitter feed on Friday, Douglas said "Thanking @AtlantaFalcons for my 7 years in ATL & the opportunity to play in the city I grew up. First class organization. Much luv 2 fans."
ATLANTA (AP) — It was probably the world's only "pay-as-you-go statue," Bob Hope — a local marketing guru, not the famous comedian — likes to joke. Eight years after Braves right-fielder Hank Aaron shattered Babe Ruth's home-run record in 1974, Hope decided to form a nonprofit group dedicated to erecting a monument to the baseball legend. As a symbolic gesture of gratitude, the nonprofit deemed, it should be paid for by Aaron's fans.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Prosecutors have dismissed domestic violence charges against Panthers defensive end and soon-to-be free agent Greg Hardy after they said the accuser in the case couldn't be found.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Tuesday he has seen enough of the NFL's investigation of fake crowd noise at Atlanta's home games to acknowledge wrongdoing.
The NFL is trying to determine if the Falcons pumped artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome for home games the last two years. Apparently, the answer is yes.
Blank had a quick response when asked if there was a fine line for crowd noise not allowed by the league.
"It's not really a fine line," Blank told The Associated Press. "I think what we've done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong. Anything that affects the competitive balance and fairness on the field, we're opposed to, as a league, as a club and as an owner. It's obviously embarrassing but beyond embarrassing it doesn't represent our culture and what we're about."
Blank said he expects the league to report its findings in two to three weeks.
The Falcons could be fined or penalized with the loss of a draft pick if found to have added fake crowd noise during the opposing team's huddles when they were trying to call a play.
"We've got some information internally," Blank said of the investigation. "Not all, clearly, until we see the full report. But we've dealt with it internally the best we can, which was limited because we haven't seen the report.
"We've gotten some information from the league but until we read the full report and until they publish their findings, we can't be totally clear. We've talked to a lot of people and we've cooperated and we'll be anxious to read the report."
The Falcons say 101 of 103 games have been sellouts since Blank bought the team in 2002. Actual turnouts declined during losing seasons the last two years.
Atlanta ranked 10th among the 32 NFL teams with its average home attendance of 72,130 in 2014. Construction is underway for a new $1.4 billion stadium which will replace the Georgia Dome in 2017. The new stadium will have a similar seating capacity.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello on Monday said the league had no comment on the investigation.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — When John Smoltz plopped down in a director’s chair inside the Baseball Hall of Fame and stared at all the bronze plaques on the walls, the moment was both magical and a bit overwhelming.
PHOENIX (AP) — Tom Brady knows what's next: more Super Bowl wins.
At least he hopes so.
The most successful quarterback of his era was still riding the high of his fourth NFL championship on the morning after New England's 28-24 victory over Seattle. Brady had every right to look back at his four touchdown passes against the NFL's top-ranked defense and beam. Instead, he was looking ahead.
"I am still kind of in the midst of my career," Brady said Monday before being presented with a car and his third Super Bowl MVP trophy, tying him with his boyhood idol, Joe Montana. "I just love the game. I love playing. I love representing our team."
That team — or previous versions of the Patriots he has quarterbacked — won three Super Bowls in four years, then lost in its next two trips to the big game. Brady knows how close the Patriots came to a third straight flop against the NFC champion, needing an interception with 20 seconds to go to clinch the crown.
"We've been on the other end of this two times in the last seven years, being ahead late in the game with the chance to win it, and not closing it out," Brady said of losses in 2008 and 2012 to the New York Giants. "I'm glad we had the opportunity to do it. Coach talked all week about how it was going to take all 60 minutes and it certainly did.
"It never broke our will. We were down 10 in the fourth quarter and (Seattle) being on the 1-yard line with 20 seconds left, but the guys never gave up. And you fight until the end and great things happen."
Brady knows all about great things, obviously. A two-time league MVP, he threw for four touchdowns against the NFL's stingiest defense, and led a comeback from a 10-point deficit through three quarters. He connected on all eight of his throws on the decisive drive that ended with a 3-yard TD pass to Julian Edelman.
Brady is 37 and has said he hopes to play well into his 40s, and he works hard to stay in top physical shape. So he doesn't see his winning toss to Edelman as his final Super Bowl moment.
But he certainly recognizes how difficult the journey is.
"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "I was a young kid when we won those first three. I know in '04 after we beat the Eagles, I was like, 'I'm just ready for this to be over, get the offseason started,' just because we had experienced it. Obviously, with some perspective of that game, it's a hard thing to get here and then it's a hard thing to win the game.
"Playing against the other best team, obviously, one play here, one play there, all things change, and we've been on the other end of that, too. So I'm just proud that we really got a chance to finish it out."
His coach, Bill Belichick, recognizes the value of a likely first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback running his offense. When the Patriots were being dominated by the Seahawks in the third quarter Sunday, Belichick understood that if they could keep it close, they had the closer.
"He's a great player," Belichick said. "It's been a great privilege to coach Tom for the last 15 years, 14 years as starting quarterback. We have a great relationship. We meet on a regular basis weekly several times.
"I can't think of a more deserving player than Tom to be the recipient of the accolades that he has this week, and particularly last night and today here. He's our leader. He competes as well as any player I've ever coached. He's well-prepared. He has great poise and great presence. He may not always be perfect, as it is for any of us. We all have our moments, but Tom, like many other players on our team, is the guy that fights to the end and competes until the end.
"There's no player I respect more for that than Tom. That's been a great pillar of strength for our football team for the past decade and a half."
And, according to Brady, for a while into the future.
ATLANTA, Ga. - The Atlanta Braves have agreed to terms with Cuban free-agent outfielder Dian Toscano on a four-year Major League contract through 2018, with a fifth-year club option for 2019. The deal was formally confirmed by Major League Baseball today and financial terms were not announced.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday he doesn't know how footballs became deflated during the game that got his team to the Super Bowl.
But Belichick declined to answer questions after saying he knew nothing until Monday morning about accusations that his team cheated with underinflated footballs in its win against the Colts in the AFC championship game on Sunday night.
The NFL is investigating. Belichick said the team is fully cooperating.
"I had no knowledge of this situation until Monday morning," said Belichick, who said he was "shocked" to learn the news.
"I would say I've learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or have talked about it in the last 40 years that I've coached in this league," Belichick said during an 8 1/2-minute opening statement during an 11 1/2-minute news conference. "I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls and process that went through."
Belichick did not specify who in the Patriots organization was responsible for the underinflated balls, or absolve anyone besides himself of potential wrongdoing.
Softer balls are generally considered easier to throw and catch, and quarterbacks, specialists and equipment managers are known to have very individualized preferences in how footballs are readied for games. Belichick said he was unaware of the process for game balls until the accusations were raised.
Belichick said he sometimes hears quarterbacks, kickers and other specialists talk about their preferences.
"I can tell you and they will tell you that there is never any sympathy from me whatsoever on that subject. Zero," Belichick said.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is expected to address reporters later Thursday.
"Tom's personal preferences on his ball, footballs, are something that he can talk about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide," Belichick said. "I can tell you that in my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure."
The NFL requires balls to be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pound per square inch. Under league rules, each team provides 12 balls for use on offense. Referees approve the balls more than 2 hours before game time, then keep the balls until they're turned over to ball handlers provided by home teams just before kickoff.
Belichick said the balls used by the Patriots offense are inflated to the "12 1/2-pound range" and "any deflation would then take us under that."
Going forward, he said, the Patriots will inflate footballs to a safe level to prevent them from dropping under allowable air pressure during games.
"We will take steps in the future to make sure that we don't put ourselves in this type of situation again," he said.
The coach who has won three Super Bowls said he generally forces players to practice under bad-ball conditions.
"Anytime players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make it worse and that stops the complaints," he said. "We never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever or kick with whatever we have to use."
The issue has drawn strong reaction from around the game and its fans as the Patriots prepare to play the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona, for the NFL title.
Several players said it would not distract them in preparing for the game.
"It's unfortunate. We'd rather be celebrating our trip to the Super Bowl," special teams captain Matthew Slater said. "It's important to us that we respect the game and deal with things in a way that's considered professional."
Belichick declined to answer several questions after his opening remarks, answering several of them by saying: "I've told you everything I know," and "I don't have an explanation."
Jeff Gordon, the charismatic four-time NASCAR champion who became the face of the stock car racing as the sport exploded in popularity a generation ago, will retire as a full-time driver after the 2015 season.
The NFL says its investigation into whether the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs in the AFC championship game is ongoing after a report Tuesday night claimed the league found 11 balls were not properly inflated.
Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president for football operations, told The Associated Press that the "investigation is currently underway and we're still awaiting findings."
Vincent was responding to an ESPN report that cited anonymous league sources saying 11 of the Patriots' 12 allotted game footballs were under-inflated by 2 pounds per square inch of air. ESPN did not say how that occurred.
Vincent said earlier Tuesday he expected the probe to be concluded by the end of the week. The last thing the NFL wants after a difficult season off the field is a potential cheating scandal that disrupts Super Bowl week. New England faces Seattle on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.
The Patriots, who beat Indianapolis 45-7 for the AFC title, said they were cooperating with the league, and a Seahawks spokesman said the team would defer to the league on the matter.
The NFL began looking into the issue not only because doctoring the footballs could provide a competitive advantage, but because it would compromise the integrity of the game.
Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player or the way it travels through the air. Under NFL rules, each team provides balls each game for use when its offense is on the field. The balls are inspected before the game by the officiating crew, then handled during the game by personnel provided by the home team.
Social media responses were quick late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
"11 of 12 balls under-inflated can anyone spell cheating!!! #Just Saying" was the tweet from Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice.
"So we get to play the game again or nah? ??" tweeted Colts cornerback Darius Butler.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on ESPN radio in Milwaukee that he didn't like how referees who inspected balls before games take air out of the game balls.
"I have a major problem with the way it goes down, to be honest with you," Rodgers said. "The majority of the time, they take air out of the football. I think that, for me, is a disadvantage."
Rodgers said referees have a set range in which they "like to set game balls," and that he always liked the higher end of the range because of his grip.
"I just have a hard time throwing a flat football," Rodgers said. He thought a slight majority of quarterbacks like footballs on the flatter side.
"My belief is that there should be a minimum air-pressure requirement but not a maximum," Rodgers said. "There's no advantage, in my opinion. We're not kicking the football. There's no advantage in having a pumped-up football."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the investigation is the least of his worries. And tight end Rob Gronkowski tweeted a photo of himself spiking the ball with the words: "WARNING GRONKING MAY CAUSE DEFLATION."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Tuesday deferred questions about the investigation, saying reporters should ask league officials. Belichick earlier said he wasn't aware there was an issue until Monday morning and promised to "cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to, whatever questions they ask."
Belichick, of course, was fined $500,000 in 2007 for having an assistant spy on the New York Jets' defensive signals.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater said the Patriots "try to do things the right way. We work hard at our jobs, our professions, to be successful and it's unfortunate that things like this come up, but that's life, that's the world we live in."
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he did not notice issues with the football and didn't specify when asked whether the Colts had reported the issue to officials.
"We talk just like they talk to officials (before the game)," he said. "We have an opportunity to talk to the officials about a lot of things."
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman said the balls didn't feel different than usual.
And defensive tackle Vince Wilfork seemed amused by the matter and didn't shed any light on it.
"I don't know anything about that," he said. "I don't touch footballs. I tackle people."
AP Sports Writers Howard Ulman, Tim Booth and Genaro C. Armas contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Matias Dominguez was like most kids who fall in love with golf and dream of one day playing in the Masters.
Not many others faced such long odds. For starters, Dominguez grew up in Santiago, Chile, a country where golf is an afterthought and only one Chilean had ever competed at Augusta National. That was Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut 51 years ago.
Until recently, Dominguez, 22, wasn't even sure he wanted to golf for a living. He is a senior at Texas Tech, not exactly a golf powerhouse, and Dominguez is fourth in scoring average for the Red Raiders after four tournaments in the fall.
One chance was all he needed — the Latin American Amateur Championship. One week of great golf left him close to tears.
With a spot in the Masters riding on the outcome, Dominguez closed with a 1-under 71 Sunday at Pilar Golf Club in Buenos Aires, Argentina, winning the inaugural event and earning the right to be among Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and his golfing idol, Phil Mickelson, at Augusta in April.
"I always told to myself, 'I hope one day I can get to the Masters,'" Dominguez said in a conference call after his victory. "Hopefully, I can just share that moment with all my friends and my family, because we all grew up with that same dream. ... I just can't believe right now that dream just became true."
That was the idea behind the Latin American Amateur, which was patterned after the Asia-Pacific Amateur.
Augusta National, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association founded the tournament with hopes it would inspire an entire region — South and Central America and the Caribbean. It comes with perks such as a spot in the Masters, the final stage of qualifying for the British Open and U.S. Open and a berth in the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur.
Without the Latin American Amateur, the only way for someone like Dominguez to play in the Masters would be as a top professional or to win an established amateur event open to the best in the world.
"Right before they announced this tournament, it seemed almost impossible for a Latin American to get there," Dominguez said. "And then here I am today. Just saying, 'I'm going to the Masters and play with everyone there,' it's just shocking."
Who could have imagined the road from Santiago to Magnolia Lane would lead through Lubbock, Texas?
Dominguez is in his final semester at Texas Tech, where his greatest achievement was leading them to a spot in the NCAA Championship as a sophomore. He is starting to branch out with academics and figure out where golf fits into the equation.
Asked for similarities between Santiago and the open spaces of West Texas, Dominguez broke out into laughter.
"Almost none," he said. "Probably if you want to find something that is the opposite of Chile, you would have to say Lubbock, Texas. But it's been a great journey. Lubbock has been something new, totally new people and new culture. It broadens my mind and makes me learn from other cultures and people, and it's been awesome for me. I wouldn't change it for anything."
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne has talked about using the reputation and resources of the Masters to help attract players from Asia — and now Latin America — to the game. The idea was to identify good golfers, which could create heroes for younger kids from the region.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur already has produced Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who made the cut at Augusta both times he qualified and now is among the top players in the world. The Latin American Amateur is just getting started, but the goal is the same.
South America has produced two major champions — Roberto de Vicenzo (1967 British Open) and Angel Cabrera (2007 U.S. Open, 2009 Masters), both from Argentina. Chile's best golfer is Felipe Aguilar, who is No. 160 in the world and plays the European Tour.
Aguilar and Mickelson are Dominguez's golfing inspirations, he says, mainly because they always smile. And no one was beaming quite like Dominguez on Sunday.
"Everyone in Chile is just going crazy," he said. "It was something that for all of us, we thought it was almost impossible. ... We were waiting a few more years for the next player to get into the Masters. I think everyone is in shock right now that we got another Chilean guy playing the Masters after like 50 years.
"Hopefully, I can represent them the best I can at the Masters."
A few things to watch this week in the Southeastern Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 1 Kentucky at Alabama: The Wildcats were back to their dominant ways during a blowout victory over Missouri on Tuesday following two surprisingly close games against Mississippi and Texas A&M to open SEC play. Now Kentucky faces a more challenging test on the road against Alabama, which has a 10-0 record this season at Coleman Coliseum.
LOOKING AHEAD: Georgia is showing signs that the Bulldogs are on their way back into contention. The Bulldogs entered the SEC schedule as prime NCAA tournament contenders but opened conference play with losses to Arkansas and LSU. They bounced back Wednesday by winning at Vanderbilt for the first time since 2005-06. Now Georgia enters a crucial stretch of its schedule, with three of the next four games at home, including intriguing matchups against Florida and Mississippi. Guard Kenny Gaines has been very good for the Bulldogs in SEC play, averaging 15.3 points on 50 percent shooting from the field.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Auburn forward Cinmeon Bowers is averaging a double-double in his first season in the SEC since arriving from Chipola (Florida) College. The 6-foot-7, 278-pound forward leads the SEC in rebounding and already has 10 double-doubles and a couple of 17-rebound performances this season. Bowers had 20 points and 14 rebounds Saturday in Auburn's 85-79 victory over Missouri.
KEY STATS: Kentucky's 86-37 wipeout of Missouri on Tuesday represented the Wildcats' largest margin of victory in an SEC game since a 106-44 blowout of Vanderbilt in 2003. Missouri's 37 points were the fewest that Kentucky had allowed in an SEC game since a 50-36 triumph over Mississippi State in 1987. ... Kentucky owns a 100-5 record during John Calipari's coaching tenure when it has allowed 63 or fewer points. The Wildcats are 50-0 under Calipari when they allow 55 or fewer points. ... Mississippi State has lost 16 straight regular-season SEC games dating back to last season. Third-year MSU coach Rick Ray has a 7-32 record in regular-season SEC play.
ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: No. 10 Kentucky must play the rest of the season without starting point guard Janee Thompson, who broke a bone in her left leg Sunday during the Wildcats' 68-60 loss to top-ranked South Carolina. Thompson had been averaging 10.1 points per game. Joining South Carolina and Kentucky in this week's Top 25 are No. 6 Tennessee, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 18 Georgia.
Complied by AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi.
DALLAS (AP) — Ohio State and Oregon will meet in a game that has never been played for a trophy that has never been raised.
The winner Monday night in North Texas can be called the truest champion in the history of major college football.
The first College Football Playoff national championship game matches the second-seeded Ducks and fourth-seeded Buckeyes at AT&T Stadium.
"It's college football history," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Sunday during a news conference with Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, with that new championship trophy sitting in between them.
The days of bowls, polls and the BCS having the final say about who is No. 1 are over. The playoff that fans wanted for so long — and finally got — will determine a champion without a doubt.
Oregon (13-1) and its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota are in search of the program's first national title, the last remaining goal for a school that has barged onto the national stage over the last two decades with ostentatious flare and flashy uniforms.
Ohio State (13-1) is shooting for national championship No. 5, but the first under coach Urban Meyer, who returned to his home state three years ago to take over a college football goliath that was looking to start its next golden age.
Tradition rich vs. cutting edge.
The Ducks from the Pac-12 raced into the championship game with an emphatic 59-20 victory against Florida State last week at the Rose Bowl.
The Buckeyes from the Big Ten upset Alabama 42-35 at the Sugar Bowl to cap an improbable rebound from an early season loss and injuries to two star quarterbacks.
"This is much more of a business trip, this time around," Ohio State All-America defensive end Joey Bosa said. "Last week we went, we hung out and had some fun. This week it's all about business; no going out, no messing around. We're just preparing."
Ohio State has won 12 straight since stumbling at home to Virginia Tech in September.
The Ducks have won nine in a row since, all by double-digit margins, since losing to Arizona in October.
"We've been playing, both our program and Ohio State have played with that kind of early loss, and your back was against the wall to get to this point every play of every game, the entire rest of the season, it was to the those words: do or die," Helfrich said.
For decades college football's best team was picked by poll voters and postseason matchups were set with little regard for determining a national champion.
The Bowl Championship Series was implemented in 1998, a system designed to create a No. 1 vs. No. 2 national championship game to end the season. It was an awkward and imperfect step in the right direction, often leaving everyone involved unsatisfied. The conference commissioners who ran the BCS relented a couple of years ago and decided to create a four-team playoff.
Here are some things to know about the ultimate winner-take-all-game:
Mariota can become the seventh Heisman Trophy winner since 1996 to win the national championship in the same season he won the Heisman. Florida State's Jameis Winston did it last season.
Another victory in what is very likely his last college game would top off a career that can go down as one of the best in college football history.
Mariota has thrown for 10,463 yards, 103 touchdowns passes and just 13 interceptions while winning 35 games in three seasons as Oregon's starter.
"Our No. 1 concern is their quarterback," Meyer said.
The Buckeyes hope to contain the fast-moving Mariota with a defensive line, led by Bosa, that is among the best in the nation.
"They've got an awesome front seven," Mariota said. "Big, physical guys that really control the line of scrimmage."
Meyer can become the second coach in college football history to win national championships with two schools, joining Nick Saban, who won the BCS title in 2003 with LSU and then three more titles with Alabama.
Meyer won national titles with Florida in 2006 and 2008. A third championship would make Meyer the ninth coach in college football's poll era (dating to 1936) to win at least three championships. Bear Bryant leads with the six he won at Alabama.
The Ducks will be down their most productive receiver over the last two games.
Darren Carrington is ineligible after failing an NCAA administered drug test. He is second on the team in yards receiving with 704 and averages 19 yards per catch. He's been especially good lately.
In the Pac-12 championship game against Arizona and the Rose Bowl against Florida State, Carrington had 14 catches for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
Oregon also lost Devon Allen, second on the team in catches (41) and touchdown receptions (seven), at the Rose Bowl to a knee injury.
"We don't have things in our system that it's, hey, we need to throw this guy the ball in this play period," Helfrich said. "That doesn't exist."
OH-FER OHIO STATE
This will be the ninth meeting between Oregon and Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won the previous eight.
NEW YORK — Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, a trio of star pitchers who dominated in an era of offense, were elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday along with Craig Biggio, the first time since 1955 writers selected four players in one year.
NEW ORLEANS — Cardale Jones came through again at the Sugar Bowl in his second career start and Ezekiel Elliott ran for 230 yards, leading Ohio State to a 42-35 upset of top-ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal Thursday night.
PASADENA, Calif. — Marcus Mariota and Oregon turned an avalanche of Florida State mistakes into a mountain of points and the Ducks rolled past the defending national champions 59-20 Thursday to turn the first College Football Playoff semifinal into a Rose Bowl rout.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Trapped behind the line of scrimmage, Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas escaped by veering sharply and upfield, leaving a defender flailing and Yellow Jackets fans cheering another touchdown.