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Big 12 unlikely to have title game for next season

IRVING, Texas — The Big 12 is unlikely to stage a football championship game this year even though the NCAA approved a plan last month that would allow the 10-team league to do so.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said data presented to league athletic directors Thursday posed questions about whether the league has a better chance to get into the four-team College Football Playoff without a championship game than it would with one.

There were no votes or any formal action taken by athletic directors on a championship game, possible expansion or a league-wide television network.

Bowlsby described the four-hour meeting as mostly "high-level discussions."

In other news:

Purdue hired Darrell Funk as its new offensive line coach.

He coached the offensive line at Akron last season and was Michigan's offensive line coach from 2011-14.

Florida hired Virginia Tech assistant Torrian Gray as its defensive backs coach.

Sophomore defensive ends Qaadir Sheppard and Amir Ealey were dismissed from the Syracuse program for a violation of team rules.


Kendrick, Dodgers finalize $20 million, 2-year contract

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers finalized their $20 million, two-year contract with free-agent Howie Kendrick on Thursday, bringing back the second baseman in part because of his willingness to play multiple positions.

Kendrick had turned down a $15.8 million, one-year qualifying offer from the team in November.

That rejection left the Dodgers as the only club that could sign the 32-year-old without having to give up a 2016 amateur draft pick in the opening rounds as compensation.

After Kendrick's rejection, the team re-signed Chase Utley to a $7 million, one-year deal to split time at second with Kike Hernandez, who is recovering from right shoulder surgery.

Third baseman Justin Turner is recovering from knee surgery.

Kendrick batted .295 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs last season, his first after the Dodgers acquired him from the Los Angeles Angels in December 2014. Utley, who is 37, batted .212.

In other news:

The Orioles reached an agreement with left-hander Brian Matusz on a one-year, $3.9 million contract, avoiding arbitration.

Also, Baltimore acquired right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne from the Padres for a minor league pitcher.

Reliever Fernando Rodney and the Padres completed their $2 million, one-year contract.

Infielder Don Kelly signed a minor league contract with the Marlins, with an invitation to major league spring training.

World Series trophy will stop in Lincoln, Omaha

Baseball fans will have an opportunity to take a picture with the 2015 World Series trophy, as the Kansas City Royals will pay a visit to Lincoln's Devaney Center on Tuesday.

The trophy will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., before it makes its way to Omaha. It will be on display in Omaha from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hy-Vee on 9707 Q St.

Free parking will be offered in Lot 58, and fans will need to enter through the entrances on the north side of the Devaney Center. Fans have the option of purchasing a professional portrait with the trophy, or Royals staff will take a photo with the fan's device.


Injured Stewart to miss start of final NASCAR season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tony Stewart will miss the start of his final NASCAR season after fracturing his back in an accident on an all-terrain vehicle, Stewart-Haas Racing said Thursday.

The three-time NASCAR champion sustained a "burst fracture of the L1 vertebra" when he crashed on an ATV Sunday, and he had surgery Wednesday, the team said. A timetable for Stewart's return has not been determined, but SHR said he is expected to make a full recovery and race this year.

Drivers report to Daytona next week to begin preparations for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 21. An interim driver for the No. 14 Chevrolet was not named Thursday.

Denny Hamlin suffered a compression fracture to the same L1 vertebra in 2013 and missed four races, but even after his return, he struggled with back pain the rest of the season.

Stewart will miss what was expected to be his final Daytona 500. He is 0-17 in the prestigious race and spoke last month about how it's one of the few glaring holes on his resume.

Stewart, who turns 45 in May, plans to retire from NASCAR competition at the end of this year.

Stewart was with Greg Biffle and other NASCAR personalities on the ATV outing in the Southern California desert when he crashed. The team said he was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital and he was able to move all of his extremities.

Stewart flew to North Carolina late Tuesday and remained hospitalized Thursday following his surgery.


Fowler, Lowry, Matsuyama share Phoenix Open lead

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Rickie Fowler overcame some bad shots for a share of the lead Thursday in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Phil Mickelson compounded his mistakes and fell back.

After an hourlong frost delay at chilly TPC Scottsdale, Fowler played the first six holes in 5 under. A group behind, Mickelson took the lead at 5 under with a birdie on his eighth hole.

While Fowler finished with a 6-under 65 to tie Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama for the lead in the suspended first round, Mickelson had a 69 after dropping four strokes in a two-hole stretch.

Mickelson bogeyed the par-3 fourth after hitting short and right and failing to reach the green with his second and unraveled with a triple bogey on the par-4 fifth. He drove out of bounds to the right, hit his second tee shot into the right bunker and three-putted from 50 feet.

In other news:

Lydia Ko played enough golf to catch up to the lead but not enough to finish the rain-delayed second round of the Coates Golf Championship at Ocala, Florida.

Ko was 4 under par for the round and had a 15-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole when the horn sounded to stop play because of thunderstorms in the area. Ko, the No. 1 player in women's golf making her 2016 debut, was 7 under for the tournament. She was tied with Ha Na Jang, who opened with a 65 and was not scheduled to tee off until Thursday afternoon.


Police: BMX rider Mirra dead at 41 of apparent suicide

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Police said veteran X Games biker Dave Mirra has died in North Carolina. He was 41.

Greenville police said Thursday night that Mirra's body was found earlier in the day with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Authorities say they responded to an apparent suicide and discovered his body in a truck.

They say he had been visiting friends in the area.

Mayor Allen Thomas called Mirra "a great friend and wonderful human being."

Mirra was an accomplished BMX rider and one of the most decorated athletes in X Games history, medaling every year from 1995 to 2008 and winning 14 gold medals. His one-time record of 24 career medals was broken in 2013 by Bob Burnquist.

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