National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Federer withstands Murray rally to reach Aussie semis

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Roger Federer regained his dominance over Andy Murray in Grand Slam matches and advanced to his 11th consecutive Australian Open semifinal with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win Wednesday.

Federer clinched it on his third match point with an ace to set up a showdown with top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who beat Grigor Dimitrov 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7), 6-2.

Murray, who saved two match points in the third-set tiebreaker, has an 11-10 edge over Federer in head-to-head matches, but Federer has won four of five matches in majors.

Murray got angry after a ruling while losing his serve in the ninth game of the third set when he indicated the ball had bounced twice before Federer made a return.

Earlier, two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka was beaten 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 by Agnieszka Radwanska.

Nadal survives Dimitrov, reaches semis at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Rafael Nadal avoided the top player exodus that claimed two-time defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka in the preceding match on center court for a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7), 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov in the Australian Open quarterfinals Wednesday.

Nadal, who received treatment several times for a nasty-looking blister on the palm of his left hand, advanced to a semifinal match against the winner of the marquee quarterfinal between Andy Murray and Roger Federer later Wednesday.

Azarenka won't have a semifinal date. No. 5-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska stopped Azarenka's 18-match winning run at Melbourne Park with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 win earlier in the day.

That means both defending champions went out in the quarterfinals - Novak Djokovic lost to Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday, ending his bid for a fourth consecutive men's title. Aazarenka had been aiming for three in a row. Other women's title contenders Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova didn't even make it as far as the quarterfinals.

Nadal won on his fourth match point on Dimitrov's serve in 3 hours, 37 minutes, a long time after his celebration following a second-set tiebreaker that more resembled a victory dance. He stayed in a squat position after his winning cross-court shot and then pumped his chest out three times.

There were more muted celebrations after a tiebreaker in the third set, with Nadal acknowledging Dimitrov let him off the hook with a wide forehand on set point.

"I was so lucky," he said. "It gives me the opportunity to be in semifinals of a tournament I love so much."

Nadal fended off three set points in the third set, including two in the tiebreaker, and won on his first set point.

He went up 2-0 in the fourth when he hit a passing backhand down the line on break point with Dimitrov standing at the net. At the end, Dimitrov appeared to wipe tears from his eyes with a towel as he walked off Rod Laver Arena.

Dimitrov was still emotional during his post-match news conference, tearing up while discussing the forehand that got away.

"Obviously I got to put that in the past," he said. I'm sure I could have done something different. But in a match everything comes down to a split of a second ... whether in or out.

Earlier, he said: "I'm a bit shattered. I came out expecting nothing less than to win."

Hank Aaron tweets support to Seahawks' Sherman

NEW YORK (AP) Richard Sherman is a hit with baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

The former major league home run king tweeted his support for the Seahawks' cornerback, who has received criticism for his rant against San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree following Seattle's victory over the 49ers in Sunday's NFC championship game.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Aaron told Sherman to "hang in there & keep playing as well as you did Sunday. Excellent job - you have my support."

Sherman thanked Aaron in a tweet, saying "your support is greatly appreciated and very humbling."

The cornerback has written for mmqb.si.com for most of the season, and on Monday wrote that he's not a villainous person and that his postgame interview with Fox reporter Erin Andrews stemmed from adrenaline and his dislike for Crabtree.

Report: Bills' Pettine meets with Browns owner, brass

CLEVELAND (AP) Mike Pettine got a second look from the Browns, who could be zeroing in on their next coach.

Buffalo's defensive coordinator had his second interview with Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner on Tuesday night, a person familiar with the Browns' plans told The Associated Press. The meeting took place in Mobile, Ala., site of the Senior Bowl, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team is not commenting during its search.

Pettine is the first candidate to meet twice with the Browns. He spent four hours with Haslam, Banner and other members of Cleveland's front office but was not offered the job. Pettine had impressed the Browns during his first interview last week, and club officials flew to meet with him again - a strong sign of their interest.

However, the person familiar with the team's plans said the Browns left Mobile and had another interview lined up for Wednesday.

The Browns are in the fourth week of their search for their seventh full-time coach since 1999.

Pettine just completed his first year with the Bills, and he improved the team's defense in every statistical category. Though the Bills still struggled against the run, they finished second in the NFL with a franchise-record 57 sacks.

The 47-year-old Pettine spent four seasons as a defensive coordinator under Rex Ryan with the New York Jets before joining the Bills. Pettine also has worked as an assistant in Baltimore.

Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas hopes Pettine stays put.

"Hey (hash)Browns leave our DC alone," Thomas posted on his Twitter account.

Earlier, Adam Gase, Denver's highly regarded offensive coordinator, called Haslam and informed him he was withdrawing his name and would not interview after the Super Bowl.

The 35-year-old Gase, who will lead the Broncos' high-powered offense against Seattle, was the first candidate contacted by the Browns after they fired Rob Chudzinski following a 4-12 season. Gase declined an initial interview request because he wanted to concentrate on the playoffs, and the Browns would have had to wait until after Feb. 2 to speak with him.

Haslam said last week the team is "prepared to wait as long as necessary" to hire a coach, and the Browns quickly moved ahead without Gase, who enjoys his role with the Broncos and may not be ready for a head coaching gig.

The Browns are the only team without a head coach and have interviewed at least eight known candidates - the list is still growing - to become their fourth coach in the past six years.

Besides Pettine, the team has set up a second interview with Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

The 43-year-old Quinn, who presided over the NFL's top-rated defense this season, met with the Browns on Jan. 1. Per NFL rules, the Browns can conduct a second interview with Quinn by Sunday, but are not permitted to offer him a job until after the Seahawks' season is over.

Gase drew the Browns' attention and soared up their wish list of candidates after helping quarterback Peyton Manning shatter several league records this season. Also, Haslam received a glowing recommendation on Gase from Manning, who has a long-standing relationship with the Haslam family because of their Tennessee ties.

Gase, too, fit the outline - young, offensive-minded - of the type of coach Banner wanted to bring to the Browns, who have lost at least 11 games in each of the past six seasons.

Gase is the second high-profile coach to remove his name from consideration. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also told the Browns he was not interested in pursuing their opening.

The Browns also have interviewed former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak and Dallas special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, and both be brought back for second meetings.

The team also plans to meet with Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said he has been contacted by the Browns about members of his staff. Cleveland may want to interview defensive line coach Jim Tomsula or offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Harbaugh would not confirm which coaches Cleveland asked about and was reluctant to offer much information.

"To go into any further detail, I don't think helps our situation, their situation," he said. "Their search is their search."

Radwanska upsets Azarenka in Aussie quarters

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Victoria Azarenka's 18-match winning streak at the Australian Open ended in an upset 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 quarterfinal loss to Agnieszka Radwanska on Wednesday to continue the flow of stars tumbling out of the season's first major.

Fifth-seeded Radwanska ended her own streak of three consecutive quarterfinal defeats at the Australian Open with a stunning display of versatile shot-making that shocked and confused the big-hitting Azarenka.

The result means both defending champions were out in the quarterfinals - Novak Djokovic in five sets to Stan Wawrinka the previous night.

Azarenka's defeat also followed the fourth-round exits of top-ranked Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and leaves 2011 French Open champion Li Na as the only major winner remaining in the women's draw.

Radwanska next plays No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova, who won the last eight games in a one-hour, 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal rout of No. 11-seeded Simona Halep.

Li will play 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the other semifinal.

Radwanska played drop shots and slices from the baseline, forcing Azarenka to come forward and then lobbing or passing her, and hit touch volleys with calm precision. She didn't fall into big-swinging rallies against the second-seeded Azarenka, either, continually mixing it up and saving the power for when she needed it.

She was also safe on her own serve, dropping just two games in the two-hour match while breaking Azarenka six times. She hadn't beaten Azarenka in their last seven matches, and had only won three of their previous 13.

"I said to myself one day I have to have one step forward and do the semifinal, and I'm so, so happy that I did it finally," Radwanska said of her first run to the semis of a major on hard courts. She reached the final at Wimbledon in 2012 and the semifinals last year.

"I knew she's very great player, very consistent," Radwanska said. "I just had to play my best tennis, even better and play aggressive and go for every shot I could."

Azarenka went down in a flurry of unforced errors, making 47 as she tried to claw her way back into the match.

She seemed to have momentum at the end of the second set, when she leveled after breaking Radwanska in the last game. But she didn't carry it through, pushing a forehand fractionally too wide on the first point and unsuccessfully challenging the out call.

It was a sign of things to come. She won only 14 points in the third set, and was broken three times.

She was booed late in the match, when she smashed a ball into the back of the court after another frustrating error. She screamed loudly after losing big points to the incredibly consistent Radwanska.

"She played well," Azarenka said, when asked about her obvious frustration on court. "I don't think I played my best tennis, but it didn't make me angry."

"My game wasn't there today as I wanted it to. But she definitely played really well."

Bench propels Nets past Magic, to 8th win in last 9

NEW YORK (AP) Andray Blatche came off the bench and had a team-high 18 points and reserve forward Mirza Teletovic added 14 points as the Brooklyn Nets continued their resurgence with an eighth win in nine games, beating the Orlando Magic 101-90 on a snowy Tuesday night.

One night after routing the crosstown rival New York Knicks, the Nets kept up the surge. Their 8-1 start in January is a NBA best after a disappointing 10-21 start to their second season in Brooklyn.

Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce each had 13 points apiece for the Nets.

Despite heavy snow that was expected to dump 8-14 inches on the city, there were barely any empty seats with 15,482 in attendance at Barclays Center.

New York City native Kyle O'Quinn led Orlando with 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench. E'Twaun Moore had 13 points for the Magic, who lost for the 10th time in 11 games.

Tied 38-all with 3:51 remaining in the second quarter, the Nets went on a 8-4 run to close out the first half up 46-42.

Brooklyn stepped up its defensive effort to start the third quarter after Orlando shot 50 percent in the first half, limiting them to just 3 for 21. The Magic missed their first nine shots of the period as the Nets capitalized and jumped out to a 64-48 lead. Aaron Afflalo made Orlando's first bucket with 4:50 remaining.

Nets star point guard Deron Williams came off the bench for the second straight game and had nine points and dished out nine assists in 28 minutes. It was his second game back after missing the last five due to a sprained ankle.

The Nets have allowed 91.7 points per game during their eight wins in January.

World Cup venue in danger of not being ready

SAO PAULO - FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke is giving Brazilian organizers only a few more weeks to show that the stadium in Curitiba will be ready in time for the World Cup.

Valcke showed real concern about the pace of construction at the Arena da Baixada after visiting the southern city on Tuesday, saying that work there is more than late. He said he believes the stadium will make it, but declined to guarantee it will be part of the tournament that begins in June.

Valcke said local organizers have until Feb. 18 to demonstrate that the work can be completed in time.

"What we are expecting is that these technicians will work from now up to the 18th of February and by the 18th of February they will say, `OK, guys, it's fine,"' Valcke said.

Most of the delay at the venue, which was about 90 percent completed, was blamed on difficulties getting the needed funding for the construction. The stadium is being built mainly by local club Atletico Paranaense.

"For the time being, I trust that the decisions that have been made today will give us Curitiba as one of the host cities," Valcke told a news conference. "It will be a difficult birth, but at the end we will have a baby."

Brazil's deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes said that after Tuesday's visit it was clear something had to be done to guarantee Curitiba as a host city.

"With the current pace of construction, the stadium would not be ready in time," Fernandes said, adding that more workers are expected to be added to the construction site to try to get the venue ready.

The trip to Curitiba was not originally scheduled for this week's inspection tour by FIFA, but football's governing body added a stop there after receiving the latest construction report from local organizers. Valcke was initially expected to go to the jungle city of Manaus.

Australia is scheduled to play defending champion Spain at Curitiba on June 23. On Wednesday, Football Federation Australia said it was concerned and will contact FIFA for more advice on the issue.

"The prospect of matches being moved from Curitiba raises serious concerns, particularly for Socceroo fans who have secured tickets and made flight and hotel bookings," an FFA spokesman said.

The Arena da Baixada was the most delayed among the six that still have to be delivered for the World Cup.

FIFA's inspection tour began on Monday in Sao Paulo, with Valcke visiting the Itaquerao stadium, where a crane collapse late last year killed two workers and caused significant delays in construction.

The Itaquerao, which will host the World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, is expected to be ready in mid-April.

On Wednesday, the Arena das Dunas in the northeastern city of Natal will be the latest stadium to be delivered. Valcke will be there for the inauguration ceremony along with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil promised to deliver all 12 by the end of 2013 but only the six that were used during last year's Confederations Cup were ready. Four of those had missed their initial completion deadline of the end of 2012.

The Arena da Baixada is due to host four World Cup matches, all in the group stage. The first is Iran vs. Nigeria on June. 16.

Cibulkova cruises into Australian Open semifinals

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Dominika Cibulkova won the last eight games in a one-hour, 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal rout Wednesday of No. 11-seeded Simona Halep of Romania at the Australian Open.

The diminutive Cibulkova, among the shortest women on the WTA tour at 1.61 meters (5-feet-3), pounded Halep from the back of the court to progress to her first Grand Slam semifinal since the 2009 French Open. It was her second win in five major quarterfinals and served as a harsh lesson for Halep, who was appearing in her first.

Halep only won 10 points in the second set as Cibulkova relentlessly attacked.

No. 20-seeded Cibulkova, who beat Maria Sharapova in three sets in the fourth round, will play the winner of Wednesday's later quarterfinal between two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska.

League talking to 49ers about sideline hit

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday there's been communication between the NFL and the team after Seattle's Jeremy Lane ran into an unidentified person on the 49ers sideline during the NFC championship game.

Harbaugh said that general manager Trent Baalke had spoken to the league.

"Yeah. There has been some contact there. Trent's talked to them about that," Harbaugh said. "I do, though, have a perspective of that because I did see it. I was standing closer to the sideline than the person that got run into."

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday that the Seahawks had reached out to the league to find out more about what happened. Carroll said he was disappointed there was not a penalty called on the play.

Lane was running downfield on punt coverage on the first play of the second quarter of Seattle's 23-17 win Sunday. Lane was blocked into the 49ers bench then ran into a person on the sideline not in uniform. Lane popped up and returned to the field.

Harbaugh said Tuesday that "our guy was in a spot back where he was supposed to be. I saw it with my own two eyes."

"You don't know which way to go other than you kind of hold your ground and protect yourself," Harbaugh said. "That was his reaction and mine as well. I would be willing to be called and say the same thing on the record."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Metal detectors at big league ballparks by '15

NEW YORK (AP) Entering a big league ballpark will be a bit like going through an airport by 2015.

Major League Baseball has told its 30 teams they must implement security screening for fans by then, either with hand-held metal detection or walk-through magnetometers.

"This procedure, which results from MLB's continuing work with the Department of Homeland Security to standardize security practices across the game, will be in addition to bag checks that are now uniform throughout MLB," baseball spokesman Michael Teevan said Tuesday.

The Seattle Mariners announced Tuesday that fans entering Safeco Field will have to walk through metal detectors starting with this year's opener.

Boston, the New York Mets, Oakland, Pittsburgh and San Francisco were among the teams that experimented with screening at times last year. Security gained more intense focus after three people were killed and more than 260 wounded in when two bombs were set off at the Boston Marathon finish line.

"We conducted testing of these measures at the All-Star game and at both World Series venues last year, and we were pleased that it was effective and received without issue from fans," Teevan said.

MLB is being assisted by CEIA USA Ltd., which manufactures walk-through metal detectors, and the security company GSIS.

Big league teams have generally limited bags that fans bring to 16 inches by 16 inches by 8 inches.

In an effort to increase security this season, the NFL limited the size and type of bags fans can bring to games. With the exception of medically necessary items, only clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches have been allowed. One-gallon clear plastic freezer bags also were permitted along with clear plastic bags approximately the size of someone's hand.

AP source: Players wanted A-Rod out of union

NEW YORK (AP) Several angry major league players wanted Alex Rodriguez kicked out of their union after he sued it last week, but staff lawyers told them expulsion was not allowed.

The players spoke Jan. 13 during a Major League Baseball Players Association conference call after Rodriguez sued the union and Major League Baseball to overturn an arbitrator's decision suspending him for the 2014 season and postseason.

Details were first reported Tuesday by Yahoo Sports and later confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the call. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

The union and Rodriguez spokesman Ron Berkowitz declined comment.

All players in the major leagues are members of the union and pay $65 daily in dues, or $11,895 if a player is in the big leagues for a full season. Baseball's labor contract specifies the union is "the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for all major league players."

The union will incur costs of defending the lawsuit by the New York Yankees third baseman, who claimed in the suit it "breached its duty of fair representation to Mr. Rodriguez." The union retained Michael Rubin and Barbara J. Chisholm of the San Francisco firm Altshuler Berzon to defend it, according to a court filing Tuesday.

Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig on Aug. 5, and the union filed a grievance contending the discipline was without "just cause." The penalty was reduced to 162 games plus the 2014 postseason by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, who concluded Rodriguez violated baseball's drug agreement each year from 2010-12 and twice obstructed MLB's investigation in violation of the sport's labor contract.

Rodriguez agreed to a $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees after the 2007 season. Horowitz's decision cost Rodriguez $22.13 million of his $25 million salary this year; the three-time AL MVP is owed $61 million by the Yankees from 2015-17.

NOTES: MLB and the union have agreed to follow their previous methodology for luxury tax payrolls in dealing with Rodriguez's suspension. He will count as $3,155,738 this year for the Yankees, which is 21-183rds of the $27.5 million average annual value he would have been listed at. Horowitz ruled Rodriguez loses 162 days' pay over the 183-day season.

Minn. Supreme Court dismisses Vikings stadium suit

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Minnesota's Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the funding plan for a new Vikings football stadium, eliminating a legal obstacle that threatened a last-minute derailment of the project.

Minnesota finance officials postponed a $468 million bond sale while the case was pending. After the ruling, the chairwoman of the government authority managing the construction said she believed the project could be kept on schedule, despite earlier worries about possible delays and cost overruns.

"We are confident that we will be able to move forward very quickly, to get the financing in place for the bond sale and to keep things on track," said Michele Kelm-Helgen, board chairwoman for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

The nearly $1 billion stadium, on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis, has a planned opening of July 2016.

Doug Mann, an activist and former Minneapolis mayoral candidate, filed the Supreme Court lawsuit on Jan. 10, arguing the stadium funding plan was unconstitutional. But the state's highest court disagreed.

State law "does not confer original jurisdiction on the court to resolve all challenges to legislation authorizing the use of appropriation bonds," the court's five-page ruling read. It was unsigned and issued "per curiam," meaning on behalf of the entire court. Justice Alan Page, a former Minnesota Vikings player, did not participate.

In other words, the court told Mann that he should have challenged the constitutionality of the bond sale in a district court lawsuit, not to the Supreme Court. Mann had previously filed a similar lawsuit in Hennepin County, which a judge dismissed.

The Supreme Court ruling noted that Mann had a petition on that matter pending with the Minnesota Court of Appeals. But that court also denied Mann's petition on Tuesday, saying he filed the wrong type of appeal and has now missed the deadline for filing a proper one.

Mann did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

A spokesman for the state's Management and Budget office, which processes bond sales, couldn't immediately say when the stadium bonds would be sold now that the legal obstacles have fallen away.

It's likely to be soon, though Kelm-Helgen said possibly not soon enough to meet several planned payment deadlines. However, she said several contractors working with the state on both the stadium and a related development project have signaled they are open to slightly delayed payments to keep original timelines intact.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who earlier Tuesday had expressed worry that the lawsuit could put the project at risk, thanked the Supreme Court for acting quickly.

The stadium project has seen its share of stumbles since the Legislature signed off in May 2012. The initial plan to use electronic gambling proceeds to cover the state's debt fell miserably short. Last year, lawmakers reopened the financing plan to substitute other tax dollars for the state's $348 million share. An additional $150 million is coming from a sales tax diversion in Minneapolis.

The city component is what triggered Mann's lawsuit. He contended the agreement illegally circumvented a Minneapolis charter provision that should have put the matter before voters.

Vikings executives haven't commented on the legal wrangling, and the team isn't party to the case. Team owners are drawing their $500 million stadium share from personal seat license sales, an NFL loan program and other private sources. The ownership already upped its contribution when it became clear that some amenities wouldn't fit within the original $975 million budget, and the Vikings have already spent $50 million on construction.

The Vikings have agreed to play two seasons at the University of Minnesota's on-campus football stadium, which seats fewer fans than the Metrodome or the new stadium.

Workers deflated the Metrodome roof Saturday, and demolition of the building is getting underway this week.

Notre Dame switching from Adidas to Under Armour

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Under Armour Inc. CEO Kevin Plank recalls sleeping in the visiting locker room at Notre Dame Stadium back in 1997, invited to the game by Georgia Tech staff and forced to bunker down because he didn't have a hotel room.

Back then, his company was about a year old and he was excited to see the Yellow Jackets take the field in Under Armour apparel.

On Tuesday, Plank was back in South Bend to announce a 10-year apparel deal with the Fighting Irish that Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick described as the largest deal of its kind in the history of college athletics.

Michigan's eight-year contract worth with $8.2 million annually is generally believed to have been the largest until Notre Dame's deal. Swarbrick wouldn't disclose terms.

"There's been a lot of speculation about whether this deal would top $100 million," said Nancy Lough, a professor of higher education at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and president of the Sport Marketing Association.

Adidas, which began providing shoes to Notre Dame in 1997, issued a statement saying it would no longer partner with Notre Dame after the 2013-14 season.

"As with every business decision, we weigh our investment against the value to our brand," spokesman Michael Ehrlich said.

Swarbrick said it was important for Notre Dame to have such a deal to get through what he called a period of change in college athletics "unlike any of us have ever lived through." He mentioned the change from the BCS to a playoff system in football and conference realignment in all sports that saw Notre Dame move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference last year.

Sports marketing experts say the deal was important for Baltimore-based Under Armour.

"This spreads their footprint further," said Rick Burton, a sports marketing professor at Syracuse. "With Notre Dame being such an emblematic university with such a national fan base, I think this fully signals that Under Armour is in the game. That they're a big-time player in terms of going after attractive university contracts."

Under Armour is a relative newcomer to the industry so it has had to build its reputation on innovation, Lough said.

"They simply weren't going to get a big school right out of the gate," she said. "They're young still, but to add Notre Dame at this stage is a real big statement for where the brand is going."

Swarbrick said the deal includes an option for Notre Dame to take a portion of the cash component from the deal in Under Armour stock. He said he was impressed by Under Armour's commitment to technology and said the deal would provide Notre Dame with something it has been missing.

"For us to marry our tradition with one of the great entrepreneurial stories in recent time in this country is exciting for me," he said. "I think it will impact our culture in direct ways. Make us more creative, more inventive, allow us to move more quickly and to be fundamentally entrepreneurial."

He said the university has asked Under Armour to make Notre Dame its laboratory for new technology.

Plank said the deal was a "game-changing event" for the company.

"It puts us on a completely different level, and frankly, we're ready for that level," he said.

Maryland was the first football team to be outfitted in Under Armour gear in 2004 and the company's first Division I all-school partnership was with Auburn in 2006. Notre Dame is the 13th school to sign with Under Armour.

Plank said he didn't expect any major changes in how Notre Dame uniforms look.

"We're not anticipating doing anything unusual, crazy. We need to honor and respect the history of the university," he said.

Burton said the deal signals to Nike, which has the most deals with Division I schools, that it had "better clamp down on the schools that you really care about." Burton said it also will be interesting to see how Adidas responds.

"Theoretically, whatever Adidas was paying Notre Dame is now available to be paid somewhere else," he said.

Seattle's Sherman writes he's not villainous

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said in a column for SI.com that he's not a villainous person.

Sherman has been a regular writer for mmqb.si.com for most of the season. He wrote on Monday that his postgame interview Sunday with Fox reporter Erin Andrews stemmed from adrenaline and his dislike for San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Sherman screamed during the interview that Crabtree is a subpar receiver.

Sherman wrote, "It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am."

After the game Sherman didn't back down, calling Crabtree "mediocre." Sherman wrote that his personal problem with Crabtree stems from an incident during the offseason in Arizona but he didn't elaborate.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Pacers win 5th straight, hold off Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Paul George scored 23 points, Roy Hibbert had 14 points and 13 rebounds and the NBA-leading Indiana Pacers built a big lead before holding off the Golden State Warriors 102-94 on Monday night for their fifth straight win.

The Pacers (33-7) went ahead by 20 in third quarter, watched the Warriors whittle the lead to two and then regrouped in the closing minutes to open a five-game West Coast trip with a victory.

David West added 17 points and Lance Stephenson finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to help the Pacers pull away for good.

Stephen Curry had 24 points and nine assists, and David Lee had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors, who have lost four of six since their 10-game winning streak.

Indiana outshot the Warriors 45.1 to 40.7 percent and outrebounded them 52 to 45. Both teams committed 15 turnovers.

Golden State still made the Pacers work for the win.

After going down by 20 in the third quarter, Harrison Barnes hit a 3-pointer to slice Indiana's lead to 79-77 early in the fourth. The Pacers pulled away by eight before the Warriors roared back within three on Lee's free throws.

But Stephenson came back with a 3-pointer to put the Pacers up 94-87. Klay Thompson answered from long range, then George Hill hit another from beyond the arc to keep Indiana in control.

The final come back by the Warriors ended almost as quickly as it started.

Andre Iguodala made a fadaway to trim Indiana's lead to 98-94 with less than a minute left. After Iguodala stole the ball from Hill, Curry missed a contested 3-pointer short, and the Pacers put the game away on free throws.

The Warriors entered the night having played an NBA-high 25 road games compared to 17 at home. The game began a string of five straight and nine of 11 at Oracle Arena, though Golden State's home court provided little comfort against the NBA's best.

Sparked by its defense and work-to-get-a-good-shot approach, Indiana opened a 35-21 lead at the end of the first quarter. Golden State switched to a smaller lineup to try and outrun the Pacers, who instead exploited their size inside.

After going ahead by 16 points late in the second quarter, Indiana let the Warriors creep closer thanks to a series of turnovers. The Pacers led 53-40 at the half.

Indiana came out of the break just like it did to start the game, scoring the first seven of the third quarter to take a 60-40 lead that halted most of the announced sellout crowd of 19,596 to a hush.

But Curry and Co. quickly had fans on their feet and to a fever pitch after a timeout. Curry hit a jumper, then tossed an alley-hoop to Andrew Bogut before Thompson's 3-pointer started a run that brought the Warriors within eight heading to the fourth quarter.

NOTES: Warriors coach Mark Jackson said it was an honor to play on the holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. "I'm not sitting here if he didn't have a dream and he didn't fight for that dream the right way," Jackson said. ... The Warriors haven't won a series against the Pacers since the 2000-01 season. ... Indiana hosts Golden State on March 4 in the only other meeting between the teams this season.

Ex-NFL player's wreck case to head to jury

DALLAS (AP) A jury will soon decide whether to convict former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent for a car accident that killed a teammate and close friend.

Brent's trial for intoxication manslaughter in the December 2012 death of Jerry Brown wraps up Tuesday with closing arguments. The case then goes to the jury.

If convicted, Brent faces up to 20 years in prison. He could also get probation.

Brown was a Cowboys practice squad linebacker who was also Brent's teammate at the University of Illinois. The two men were driving home from a night out with other Cowboys players when Brent lost control of his Mercedes on a suburban Dallas highway and wrecked.

Authorities say Brent drove with a blood-alcohol level that was more than twice the legal limit.

Richard Sherman is unafraid and unchanged

Today’s special is Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. He is available in three sizes -- admirable, repellent and fascinating, and they all come with the platinum volume knob, standard, that goes all the way to 11.

Sherman, currently considered by most to be the best cornerback in the National Football League, made the game-saving play in Sunday’s NFC Championship game against San Francisco, and then took his grievances with 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree for a very public walk with FOX’s Erin Andrews. He was so strident in so little time that FOX producers had Andrews cut the interview short, a fairly-stunning decision for any network.

Sherman, you see, talks. He is loud, erudite, aggressive, thoughtful, unforgiving, generous, willing to play the heel and willing to be magnanimous in alternate breaths. He does not cut corners, he never forgets a slight or forgets to use it as a motivator, he is proud of his reputation as the man quarterbacks avoid, and he shows anger at anyone who thinks the conventional wisdom is wrong.

In other words, he is not doing a villain turn for the publicity benefit, or the future TV gig, or for the sheer fun of being looked at. He is, like most people, more complicated than all that -- smarter, wiser and better spoken yet with a highly-sensitive hair-trigger when it comes to slights both perceived and real. He is more than a sound bite. Indeed, he is everything you think he is, and much, much more.

His family lives in Los Angeles -- his father Kevin drives a garbage truck, and his mother Beverly works with disabled children in the inner city. His siblings, brother Branton and sister Kristyna, benefited from their parents’ insistence on education, which is how he transitioned so smoothly from Dominguez High School in Compton to Stanford.

Along the way, he sharpened his skills not only as an exemplary student loaded with advanced placement classes and leadership seminars but as someone with a mind that would not be stifled by the conventions of authority.

“Sometimes I’d get tired of it and tell Richard to stop talking in practice,” Keith Donerson, his high school football coach, told the Los Angeles Daily News, “and he’d go into the tank.”

In other words, Sherman did not find his voice at Stanford. He already had it, and he did not react well to being told to muffle it. He was suspended while a sophomore at Stanford by head coach Jim Harbaugh for smarting off, and it helped curdle their relationship. It remains moderately sour to this day, though some who know him say it is also in part because he is close with fellow classmate and Seahawk Doug Baldwin, who is also not a Harbaugh fan.

While at Stanford, he changed positions from wide receiver, where he had made a brilliant fourth-down catch to help beat USC as a sophomore, to cornerback at his own request. He had to wait a year because his then-position coach David Shaw, now the head coach at Stanford, said the team didn’t have enough other receivers, but moved as a junior and excelled at his newfound place.

He was drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round in 2011, 154th overall and the 24th cornerback taken. He has never been asked to name the 23 chosen before him, but it is almost surely a loser’s bet, from Patrick Peterson at No. 5 to Rod Issac at No. 147.

Since winning the starting job in Seattle midway through the 2011 season, Sherman has become the best corner in the game by most estimations, a fact made most telling by this statistic: in 2013, he was targeted less often than any other cornerback and still had eight interceptions. In the world of cornerbacks, avoidance is the highest form of flattery.

Indeed, he seemed genuinely offended that in the biggest play of Sunday’s game, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick would have the temerity to test his side of the field with Crabtree, the wide receiver he likes least in the game. And when he deflected the pass that was intercepted by teammate Maurice Smith to effectively end the game, he made a point to go up to Crabtree and give him his two million cents worth. The result was a taunting penalty that meant nothing in the game, and his postgame rant directed toward, though not at, Andrews.

Then again, she’s not the one who threw to his side of the field.

Sherman is now the bête noire of this Super Bowl, the pro wrestling heel whose intellect and other positive attributes will be subsumed in the more popular and stereotype-able “He’s an out-of-control bigmouth.” He will try to use his brain and articulate nature to explain his way out of the corner he’s painted for himself, but that typically does not work, especially when the audience has already picked the image it prefers.

Public scorn, you see, weighs a great deal, as those who have tried to carry it have learned over the years. Sherman’s shoulders are broad, and he has already developed his reputation with some help from himself. He did, after all, once tell the Vancouver Sun that “about half the league takes (the prescription ADHD drug) Adderall,” a substance he was later suspended for allegedly having taken, although he won his appeal when the sample taken from him was found not to have followed proper protocols. He’s had Twitter feuds with Darrelle Revis, a face-to-face soliloquy with Tom Brady after a game in 2012, televised arguments with ESPN personalities, even a famous e-mail sent out while at Stanford directed toward people complaining about a Valentine’s Day prank with which he was not associated.

So yes, he talks. Always has. Probably always will. But the weight, the weight is always there, and nobody can carry it for long without suffering under the burden. Richard Sherman probably knows it intellectually, but it is a lesson that is usually learned face-first.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

No timeline for Kobe Bryant's return to Lakers

CHICAGO (AP) Kobe Bryant is riding a bike. That's about all he can do right now, so he's trying not to think about when he might be able to play again for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant broke a bone in his left knee Dec. 17 at Memphis while playing his fourth game in five nights, likely sidelining the superstar guard for six weeks. The injury against the Grizzlies occurred in his sixth game back after he missed the start of the season while recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon.

The pair of injuries for the 35-year-old Bryant raised questions about whether he would ever return to his previous form. But he said Monday night he had no doubt he would play at a similarly high level again.

"There was before I came back the first time because I didn't know how my Achilles was going to respond to playing and changing directions," Bryant said before the Lakers' 102-100 overtime loss at Chicago. "The game in Memphis I had a pretty good feel for it, getting back to being able to do what I normally could do. I feel confident about it. I did play that second half on a fractured leg and played pretty well. I feel pretty good about my chances."

But the rehab from the knee injury has been slow going so far. The 15-time All-Star said he is limited to mostly bike work right now and any talk of a return is up in the air until he returns to the court.

"Try not to think about it too much," he said. "Just go day to day."

Playing without Bryant and Steve Nash, the Lakers have dropped 13 of 16 to fall to 16-26 on the season. But they have received some encouraging play from Kendall Marshall and reserve Nick Young, who had 31 points against the Bulls.

The Lakers face a long road back to contention in the loaded Western Conference, especially with their injury issues. Nash is out with a back problem, and the team also is missing Jordan Farmar (torn left hamstring), Steve Blake (torn elbow ligament) and Xavier Henry (right knee bone bruise).

"It just makes it harder," coach Mike D'Antoni said of playing without two of the team's biggest stars. "You're not quite as good as you were when you had the guy. The biggest thing is how to finish games off because you know where you're going if they're on the floor. You've got to figure that out."

Henry could return soon. He is expected to step up his rehab work when the Lakers practice Wednesday in Miami.

Even with his limited action, Bryant remains one of the most popular players in the league. He had the most All-Star votes among the Western Conference guards when balloting was announced Jan. 9.

The fan voting was set to close Monday night, and the starters for the Feb. 16 game in New Orleans will be announced on Thursday.

"I've always looked forward to playing in All-Star games. It's always something that's been a huge honor," Bryant said. "With that being said, I haven't played. I think some of the other guys who have been out there performing and playing well and are All-Star worthy should be the ones out there playing."

Bryant isn't taking anything for granted in his 18th NBA season, especially with his injury problems over the last two years. All the time on the sideline also has provided more perspective on how the game has changed since he was a rookie in the 1996-97 season.

"It's much, much less physical," he said. "Some of the flagrant fouls I see called nowadays makes me nauseous. You can't touch a guy without it being a flagrant foul. I think some of that are some of the negatives I've seen change. But there's positives, too."

Wiggins leads No. 8 KU past No. 24 Baylor

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points, most of them coming at the free throw line, and No. 8 Kansas pulled away in the second half to beat No. 24 Baylor 78-68 on Monday night.

Wiggins was 10 of 12 from the free throw line, and the Jayhawks (14-4, 5-0 Big 12) were 27 of 29 as a team, allowing them to put away Baylor for their fifth straight win - the last four over Top 25 opponents. They are the first team to accomplish that feat since North Carolina in 1997.

Perry Ellis added 19 points and Joel Embiid had 12 for Kansas, which led 37-35 at halftime but used a 14-2 surge fueled by defense and hustle in the second half to draw away.

Brady Heslip hit six 3-pointers and scored 19 points for the Bears (13-5, 1-4), who have lost three straight and four of five. Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin added 16 points apiece.

The teams combined for 16 turnovers in a disjointed first half that included 12 lead changes but virtually no rhythm. The Jayhawks managed to squeeze out the two-point halftime lead, but they had to shoot 60 percent from the field to do it.

That's because Baylor was scorching from beyond the arc.

Heslip hit all four of his 3-point tries and the 7-foot Austin added two - he was 0 for 4 from inside the arc. Along with the two 3-pointers that Jefferson hit, the Bears knocked down 8 of 10 beyond the perimeter in the first half. They were 4 of 18 everywhere else.

The game remained close until Ellis scored inside with 12:48 remaining to start the Jayhawks on their game-defining run, and then came the two biggest highlights of the game.

The first came when Ellis stepped in front of a pass and took off toward the other end of the court, dunking the ball home while getting fouled. Naturally, he made the free throw.

The second highlight came moments later, when Kansas lost control of the ball under the Baylor basket. Freshman guard Wayne Selden tracked it down and saved it to Embiid as he crashed over a fan seated at a courtside table and wound up in the laps of two more fans wearing Bears clothing.

Everybody's eyes immediately turned to Embiid - including the officials - and the 7-foot freshman converted the basket. The only people who seemed to notice that Selden's foot was out of bounds were the folks who were able to catch the replay on television.

Bears coach Scott Drew burned a timeout as the game was starting to get away from them, but the Jayhawks kept on charging. Naadir Tharpe's 3-pointer made it 60-46 with 8:16 remaining.

From there, it was a matter of Kansas maintaining its lead.

Austin hit a 3-pointer to get Baylor within 61-51 with just over 6 minutes left, but Wiggins made four straight from the free throw line. Heslip hit another 3-pointer with 3:45 to go, but Wiggins scored on a scooping layup to keep the cushion comfortable.

Just about the only thing that went wrong toward the end of the game for Kansas happened when reserve forward Tarik Black hurt his lower leg. He appeared to get rolled into by the Bears' Rico Gathers, and Black needed considerable help to make it off the court.

Carroll says Sherman sorry rant overshadowed win

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Pete Carroll pulled Richard Sherman aside on Monday and made sure his fiery cornerback understood that his rant against San Francisco's Michael Crabtree was overshadowing the Seattle Seahawks reaching their second Super Bowl in franchise history.

Sherman seemed to get Carroll's message.

"He was really clear that the last thing he wanted to do was take something away from our team, what we had accomplished," Carroll said.

Sherman became the focal point of attention - both positive and negative - after Seattle beat San Francisco 23-17 on Sunday to win the NFC championship.

Sherman was already going to be in the spotlight for what he did on San Francisco's final offensive play, twisting his body to deflect a pass intended for Crabtree into the air and allowing time for teammate Malcolm Smith to run over and make an interception in the end zone to clinch the Seahawks victory.

The athleticism on the play was worthy of praise. But Sherman's antics from that point drew praise from some for being honest and unfiltered, and criticism from others for being too harsh and combative.

"This is a very emotional kid and that's what drives him," Carroll said. "We did sit down and talk about it because I want him to present himself in his best light. He's an incredible kid.

"He has a great sense about things and understanding and sensitivity and awareness and he cares and he's a very thoughtful person so when he puts out those kind of thoughts he has to know what he's saying and understand it and I think he's very understanding at this point that he caused a stir that took away from the team."

Sherman had been rarely targeted by the 49ers, with most of Colin Kaepernick's passes being thrown in the direction of Byron Maxwell.

But in the final minute, Kaepernick decided to take a shot to the end zone with Crabtree and Sherman matched up one-on-one.

Sherman won the matchup, staying in position to deflect the pass and have it fall into Smith's hands, similar to a tipped interception from Sherman to safety Earl Thomas in Week 15 against the New York Giants.

Except this was far more meaningful, giving Seattle its second conference championship.

But Sherman didn't let the celebration end with Smith and his teammates.

Sherman ran over to Crabtree and gave him a pat on the backside, then appeared to extend his arm for a handshake.

Instead, Sherman got shoved in the face before picking up his personal foul as his celebration continued. The taunt included a choking gesture in the direction of Kaepernick.

Asked about the incident afterward by Fox reporter Erin Andrews, Sherman lit up Twitter with a rant that began: "I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you gonna get. Don't you ever talk about me!"

And Sherman didn't back down later, apologizing to Andrews but calling Crabtree "mediocre." He said his issues with Crabtree went back to an incident during the offseason.

Carroll said he viewed the situation as a father talking to his son and wanted Sherman to realize some more thought should have gone into what he was saying.

"There's some stuff in there I think you should think about and did you really want it to come out the way it did and talk our way through that," Carroll said. "And he didn't. He didn't feel right about that.

"There were a lot of great things that happened last night and we're talking about some other stuff."

For Carroll, the return to New York is heading back to where he got his start as a head coach in the NFL, albeit a short-lived tenure as the head coach of the Jets. Carroll was the Jets head coach for one season in 1994 before getting fired after a 6-10 season.

"I think my first time in New York as a head coach was kind of in the middle of the circle somewhere or maybe it wasn't even a circle, it might have been some other shape," Carroll joked. "It was kind of a hairy time."

Notes: Carroll said WR Percy Harvin (concussion) could be cleared to practice later this week and is expected to be ready for the Super Bowl. Harvin was injured in the first half of Seattle's divisional playoff win over New Orleans. ... WR Doug Baldwin (hip), DT Brandon Mebane (foot/ankle) and RB Marshawn Lynch would be eased back into practice when the Seahawks return to the field on Wednesday, Carroll said. ... LB K.J. Wright was sore but otherwise came out of Sunday's game fine, Carroll said. It was his first game since breaking a bone in his right foot in Week 14.

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