Valdosta State to play for national title

Valdosta State’s football team will play unbeaten Winston-Salem State for the Division II National Championship Saturday afternoon in Florence, Ala.

Valdosta State's Regginald Lewis fights for yardage against Minnesota State-Mankato (AP photo)

Valdosta State’s Regginald Lewis fights for yardage against Minnesota State-Mankato (AP photo)

Valdosta State (11-2) advanced by beating previously unbeaten Minnesota State-Mankato (13-1) 35-19 in a semifinal in Mankato, Minn. Austin Scott ran for 158 yards for the winners.

Winston-Salem State beat West Texas A&M 41-18 and improved to 14-0.

Saturday’s game will mark the fourth time that the Blazers have advanced to the Div. II national championship game. Valdosta State has won twice, in 2004 and 2007.

Meanwhile, Georgia Southern will play North Dakota State in the NCAA Division I (FCS) semifinals in Fargo, N.D., Friday night after beating Old Dominion 49-35 in Norfolk, Va.

North Dakota State (12-1), the defending national champion, will host the Eagles (10-3) in a rematch of a semifinal from last season. The Bison won that …

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Tennessee hires Cincinnati’s Butch Jones

Tennessee has hired Cincinnati’s Butch Jones to replace the fired Derek Dooley.

The university has scheduled a news conference for 2:30 p.m. Friday to announce the hiring, according to Tennessee media outlets. Cincinnati already has announced Jones’ resignation.

“I would like to thank Butch Jones for his time at the University of Cincinnati,” Bearcats’ athletic director Whit Babcock said in a release. “With that said, we are excited about the future of this program and this job will be extremely attractive nationally. Our search will begin immediately.”

Tennessee had reportedly offered its job — and was rebuffed — by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Louisville coach Charlie Strong before offering the job to Jones. The school had also reached out to former NFL coach Jon Gruden, who said he was not interested in the job.

Jones, 44, has compiled a 50-27 record in six seasons as a head coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, where he was 23-14.

Dooley was fired Nov. 18 after …

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Goodell floats idea to end kickoffs

Roger Goodell says the NFL Competition Committee will consider a proposal to eliminate kickoffs.

Roger Goodell says the NFL Competition Committee will consider a proposal to eliminate kickoffs.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is floating an idea to end kickoffs as a part of his effort to make football less dangerous.

Goodell mentioned the idea during an interview with Time magazine.

Under the plan, which Goodell said will be considered by the NFL Competition Committee, kickoffs would be eliminated. Instead, the team that would normally be kicking off would get the ball at its own 30-yard line. But instead of starting at first and 10, the down and distance would be fourth and 15. At that point, the team could elect to either go for the first down or punt the ball away. If the team chose to go for it and failed, the other team would get the ball at that spot.

The idea was first proposed by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, who was the coach at Rutgers in 2010 when defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was paralyzed during a kickoff return.

Goodell talked about the proposal before …

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Sports fashion faux pas

At least on Steelers player referred to these as the "bumblebee, jailhouse look."

Was there anything more hideous worn on the field, sideline or court than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1934 throwback uniforms?

Well it was hard, but we found a few other regrettable sports looks for 2012.

Let’s hope 2013 is less, um, colorful.

More year in review: The year in sports | Notable deaths in sports

Need gift ideas? For dudes | For gals | For techies | For sports junkies

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Chipper Jones spotted with Playboy model

Chipper Jones was a baseball sensation in his 19-season career, piling up 2,726 hits, 468 homers and a .303 career batting average.

But the former Braves third baseman became an internet sensation Thursday when word, and a photo, spread around the World Wide Web that Jones is dating a Playboy model.

Chipper with Taylor Higgins. Photo from deadspin.com

Chipper with Taylor Higgins. Photo from deadspin.com

Jones, who tweeted on November 16 that his divorce from his second wife was final, has been spotted with Taylor Higgins, Bustedcoverage.com and several other websites reported. The sites also posted a photo of the couple posing for a photo at an unknown location.

Higgins is known professionally as Lexi Ray or Lexi Ray Taylor. Bustedcoverage.com says Higgins was once a Playboy coed of the week, and that she “specialized in naked shower videos and your run-of-the-mill naked photo shoots.”

A 2010 bio on Higgins said she was studying nursing at the University of Kentucky and quoted Higgins as saying, “I’m surprisingly good at …

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Atlanta kicker recalls field goal that helped Army beat Navy

Twenty years ago, Atlanta’s Patmon Malcom kicked the game-winning field goal – twice, no less – to help Army defeat Navy, 25-24, and complete a 17-point comeback.

His first attempt from 44 yards was flagged for delay of game, so he had to kick it again from 49 yards.

It was the last field goal of Malcom’s career.

He graduated and spent eight years in the Army flying Blackhawk helicopters.

He returned to Atlanta, earned an MBA from Emory and went to work for J.P. Morgan in New York doing investment banking. For the past eight years he has worked in the Atlanta firm of Earnest Partners, where he is now a partner focusing on investment management.

Malcom won’t be at Saturday’s Army-Navy game, but he will be watching it with friends and family from his home in Milton.

Q: Would it be inaccurate to think that you, a Cadet, were scared before the kick?

A: I don’t know if you would call it scared. In the moment, you don’t realize how big it is. It was my job. That’s what I did. I …

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UGA’s Jones just misses Lombardi Award

Georgia’s Jarvis Jones didn’t win the Lombardi Award Wednesday night in Houston, finishing behind Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o for the honor going to the nation’s best lineman or linebacker.

Now the two linebackers will head to Orlando Thursday to see who wins the Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year.

Georgia's Jan. 1 game against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl could be Jarvis Jones's final college game.

Georgia’s Jan. 1 game against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl could be Jarvis Jones’s final college game.

Te’o has more tackles (103) than Jones (77) this season and more interceptions (7) than Jones (1). But Jones has more tackles for losses (22.5 to 5.5), more sacks (12.5 to 1.5) and more forced fumbles (7 to 0). Both recovered two fumbles.

Jones, Te’o, Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones and South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney were the four finalists for the Lombardi Award, and Jones, Te’o, and Clowney are the final three up for the Bednarik.

Te’o has already won the Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defensive player and the Butkus Award for …

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Report: Strong turns down Tennessee job

Does anybody want to coach Tennessee?

The Vols’ search for a head coach will continue as Louisville’s Charlie Strong has reportedly become the latest coach to turn down an offer to succeed Derek Dooley.

Sports Illustrated, citing an anonymous source, is reporting that Louisville and Strong are working on a contract extension that could be announced as early as Thursday.

“It was Charlie’s desire to end this constant speculation and re-commit long-term to Louisville,” the source was quoted as saying.

Strong, the former Florida defensive coordinator, took over the Cardinals program in 2010 and led them to a 10-2 record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl against Florida this year.

On Wednesday it was reported that Tennessee offered the job to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, but Gundy also turned the job down. Earlier speculation had centered on former NFL coach Jon Gruden, but Gruden also said he had no interest in the job.

Tennessee is the last of four SEC schools to fill its …

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Auburn hires Malzahn as head coach

From the Associated Press

Auburn has turned to Gus Malzahn to restore a program that made an unprecedented fall two years after winning the national title with Cam Newton operating the then-assistant coach’s high-powered offense to perfection.

Malzahn was the Tigers’ offensive coordinator during their 2010 national championship run before heading to Arkansas State for his first college head coaching position. He received a five-year contract worth $2.3 million annually to try to get the team back on solid footing.

“I recruited a lot of them and have very good relationships,” Malzahn said. “I just told them our expectations are to win championships. Whatever happened last year happened last year. It’s a new day. We’re going to put a good brand of football on the field and we’re going to have fun doing it.”

He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record, a Sun Belt Conference title and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, then parlayed that into a job in the powerhouse Southeastern …

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Radio host apologizes for question to Richt

Sports radio talk show host Chuck Oliver said Monday he was guilty of “horrible timing” in asking UGA Coach Mark Richt a question about losing big games after Saturday night’s SEC Championship Game.

Oliver, part of the “Chuck and Chernoff Show” on 680 the Fan, said he used “awful, terrible, wretched, horrid judgment” in posing such a question after Georgia’s emotional 32-28 loss to Alabama, a game many are calling the greatest SEC championship game ever.

In the exchange at a post-game press conference, Oliver asked Richt: “There are some people, whether its fans, media or whomever else, that may want to make further conclusions about you or your quarterback specifically in big games. Would you have any response to those people?”

Richt: “I don’t know what you’re saying. Why don’t you just say it straight up what you’re trying to say.”

Oliver: “There will be people who say that you and Aaron Murray specifically come up short on the biggest stage against the biggest opponents. Do …

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