National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Final Four sets NCAA attendance record at 79,444

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) The Final Four has set an NCAA basketball attendance record at the billion-dollar home of the Dallas Cowboys.

The national semifinals drew 79,444 on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, beating the previous record of 78,129 when Kentucky beat Michigan State in a regular-season game at Ford Field in Detroit on Dec. 13, 2003.

The crowd also topped the Final Four mark of 75,421 from 2011 at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

It wasn't the biggest basketball crowd in the Cowboys' stadium. The NBA All-Star game drew 108,713 in 2010, less than a year after the opening of the $1.2 billion showplace with a huge video board that hangs above the field or court.

Cavs' Irving unhappy with media treatment

CLEVELAND (AP) Kyrie Irving says he's had enough.

Frustrated with media reports he says have unfairly portrayed him this season, the Cavaliers All-Star guard said Saturday that he's happy in Cleveland and only focused on winning.

"The barrage and little bit of attack that I saw, I've been getting it all season and I feel I definitely don't deserve it," Irving said before the Cavs were beaten 96-94 in overtime by the Charlotte Bobcats, doing further damage to Cleveland's slim playoff hopes. "It's one of those things where I can deal with it, but at a certain point, it's gotten too much. It's been like that the whole entire season."

Following a disappointing loss in Atlanta on Friday, Irving went on Twitter to defend himself against a report that said he wants out of Cleveland. The Cavs can offer him a maximum contract extension this summer.

"Sick to my stomach with all these rumors and accusations," Irving wrote in one of four tweets posted on his account. "Can I play without media guessing at my life."

Before scoring a career-high 44 points with eight assists and seven rebounds in Saturday's game, Irving, who recently missed eight games with a strained left biceps, said he's tired of the negative publicity and speculation about his future.

"They're writing reports, `Is he staying or is he going?"' Irving said. "I mean that's the last of my worries right now. It's portraying me in a light and it's bringing negativity to the team that I don't want. Our focus right now and my focus right now is winning and trying to finish out the season strong. That's where my focus has been and where it's going to stay."

A former No. 1 overall pick, Irving has not made the postseason yet during his pro career. He has missed nearly 49 games with an assortment of injuries, and Irving has been criticized for not making his teammates better.

Irving isn't claiming to be perfect, but he feels there has been too much scrutiny on him.

"For a third-year player, it's been frustrating," Irving said. "No other third-year player is probably going through what I'm going through right now, which has been the most frustrating part. It's just gotten to a point where I needed to say something."

The Cavs trail Atlanta for the final playoff spot by three games with five left. Once the season ends, the team must decide whether to keep interim general manager David Griffin, and then the club's attention will turn to Irving, who was named MVP of the All-Star game this season and has emerged as one of the league's rising young stars.

The 22-year-old understands he's going to have his critics, but he feels he's too often been singled out by the media.

"It's all nonsense to me," said Irving, who sat in front of his locker for most of the interview. "That's part of the business. I get it. It's part of the job. To go out and frame my character to something it's not. ... I'm not an attention seeker. I don't go out trying to put all these rumors out. For people that feel that it's a good thing to continue to put my name in the headlines to get reads, that's your job, but at a certain point it's got to stop."

Wildcats' Fitzgerald urges 'no' vote on union

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald sided with his university against the formation of a players union in his first public comments Saturday, repeating what he already told his team: "I believe it's in their best interests to vote no."

Fitzgerald addressed the issue for the first time with his squad Wednesday, a week after Peter Ohr, regional director for the National Labor Relations Board, ruled that Northwestern's scholarship football players were "employees." That decision entitled players to conduct a secret-ballot vote on forming a union to pursue collective bargaining with the school, a move that could significantly alter the structure of college sports - especially big revenue-producers like football and basketball.

Fitzgerald spoke at the end of a spring practice session at the school's lakefront facility, alongside a plot of land being developed for a $225 million athletic center. He also said that while he's constrained in what he can discuss regarding a union, he sent players and their parents a letter stating his position before addressing the team in person.

"All this can be handled with communication. It's about trust," Fitzgerald said about issues - including improved medical care, practice schedules and others - raised by the College Athletes Players Association, the group seeking to unionize players.

So far, CAPA has not addressed paying players on scholarship.

"I just do not believe we need a third party between our players and our coaches, staff and administrators. ... Whatever they need, we will get them," Fitzgerald said.

The NLRB set April 25 for the players vote. Only players currently on scholarship and participating in football activities will cast ballots, totaling around 70 current members of the squad.

The university has until Wednesday to ask the full, five-member NLRB in Washington to review Ohr's decision. If the full board upholds Ohr's ruling, Northwestern could also challenge that ruling in federal appeals court.

Fitzgerald cited his own experience at Northwestern, covering 18 years, to make his case. He played linebacker at the school, then served as an assistant coach and took over the program in July 2006, after the sudden death of his mentor, Randy Walker. Fitzgerald said the school had always been receptive to players' needs, including his own, and that there was already a structure in place to pursue many of the issues CAPA raised.

"I've always been an advocate of change for student-athletes," Fitzgerald said, "if it has positive impact."

A handful of players who lingered after practice said they were inclined to vote "no," though senior center Brandon Vitabile added, "We're all smart guys. We're open to hearing things and discussing things." Like Fitzgerald, he was reluctant to characterize the team's deliberations so far.

But quarterback Trevor Siemian said flatly, "I don't support it."

The fifth-year senior is the front-runner to replace graduating quarterback Kain Colter, who took a lead role in seeking to organize players at the school. CAPA, which is headed by former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, has provided support for similar efforts in recent years.

"I don't think a union is the answer for my team or my university," Siemian said.

Fitzgerald was asked whether recruiting wouldn't be easier at Northwestern if a union were organized and able to secure additional benefits for players.

"I'm not allowed to speculate," he replied tersely.

Tim Waters, the political director for the United Steelworkers Union, which has provided support to efforts to unionize players, told The New York Times he was "disappointed after coach Fitzgerald's initial reaction of supporting these guys" and predicted players would vote to support the union.

Pirates GM Huntington, manager Hurdle extended

PITTSBURGH (AP) Clint Hurdle doesn't want to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates unless Neal Huntington is his boss. Huntington doesn't want to help run the club unless Hurdle is in the dugout.

The combination that's returned the franchise to respectability will remain intact for years to come.

Hurdle and Huntington agreed to new deals on Saturday that will keep them in Pittsburgh through at least 2017, giving the Pirates the kind of internal stability they haven't enjoyed in decades.

"There's no place I'd rather be," Hurdle said.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The contracts include a club option for 2018. Both Huntington and Hurdle, chosen the 2013 National League Manager of the Year after leading the Pirates to 94 wins and a playoff berth, were in the final year of their current deals.

Reaching a new agreement was a mere formality after a thrilling season in which Pittsburgh qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1992 and pushed the St. Louis Cardinals to five games in the NL division series.

"I think we have a very solid team in place and they deserve the recognition," owner Bob Nutting said. "I think great organizations are stable organizations. Again, never static and never on autopilot ... (but) I'm proud of the culture and the tone that the current team has."

It's a tone that Huntington set from the day he took over in September, 2007. Faced with restocking a decimated minor league system and constrained by playing in a small market that makes splurging on high-profile free agents nearly impossible, Huntington has painstakingly rebuilt the Pirates from the inside out while stressing that success at the major league level would be the last step.

Those steps coincided with Hurdle's arrival in December, 2010 and the emergence of talents like homegrown star Andrew McCutchen, the reigning NL MVP. Pittsburgh has upped its win total in each of Hurdle's three seasons, from 70 in 2011 to 79 in 2012 to 94 a year ago.

Hurdle stressed most of the hard work was done before he was hired to replace Jim Tracy two months after the Pirates lost a whopping 105 games in 2010..

"When I was able to come in, just finding what we had, what had gone on, I felt confident the next move that took place would be here, the renaissance," he said.

One the Pirates have no plans on stopping.

The 27-year-old McCutchen is signed through 2018 and 25-year-old left fielder Starling Marte signed a new contract last month that could keep him with the team through 2021. Throw in the rapid development of former top pick Gerrit Cole - who picked up his first win of the season on Friday night - and the impending arrival of right field prospect Gregor Polanco and the farm system that used to be bereft is now among the most promising in all of baseball.

While Hurdle insisted he wasn't concerned about his contract status when the season began, McCutchen called the announcement a relief.

"We've had managers in the past, they were here and they were gone," McCutchen said. "We have someone here that's going to be here and don't have to worry about him leaving or going somewhere else. That's the change in the team with the success that we've had the past couple years and just doing better on improving."

Nutting credited the mutual respect Hurdle and Huntington have for each other as the key to their success. Being able to check their egos at the door helps too. While Hurdle praised Huntington's vision, Huntington believes the Pirates wouldn't have finished their transformation from laughingstock to contender without Hurdle.

"He really was a perfect fit to bring the knowledge the passion the leadership, not just the Xs and Os," Huntington said. "He's helped us all grow and helped us all get better and hopefully we've returned the favor."

Tony Stewart edges Keselowski for pole at Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Tony Stewart knocked Brad Keselowski from the pole as qualifying ended Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Stewart waited right until the end of the final round to attempt his lap and circled the speedway at 195.454 mph to grab the top starting spot for Sunday's race.

It's Stewart's 15th career pole and first since Atlanta in 2012.

Keselowski made his attempt earlier in the session and turned his lap at 195.419. He was out of his car and watching the scoring pylon as Stewart crossed the finish line, and Keselowski dropped his head in disappointment when he saw he'd been beaten.

Kevin Harvick qualified third as two Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolets were in the top three.

Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards qualified fourth and fifth for Roush Fenway Racing.

Rosberg beats teammate Hamilton to Bahrain pole

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) Mercedes locked out the front row for the Bahrain Grand Prix as Nico Rosberg claimed pole position on Saturday, qualifying ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Rosberg's time of 1 minute, 33.185 seconds at the Bahrain International Circuit was a quarter of a second faster than Hamilton, who had to abandon his final flying lap after running wide at the first corner.

It was Mercedes' third straight pole to start the Formula One season but the first for Rosberg, who equaled his father Keke with five career poles. Rosberg leads the championship on 43 points, 18 ahead of Hamilton.

"It has just worked well through the weekend, finding my way, making progress and getting through some issues," Rosberg said. "I have good memories of this track, winning the GP2 championship and starting my first race in F1. I enjoy coming here and again today it's suited me."

Rosberg and Hamilton have a win each from the opening two races of the season and Mercedes also dominated the three practice sessions leading into qualifying, both in day and night conditions, with Sunday's race to be held at night for the first time.

The only surprise was Rosberg taking pole ahead of Hamilton, who usually thrives in the one-lap format.

"I locked up in the last lap but generally I am happy for the team," Hamilton said. "Nico did a great job and naturally I'm happy my teammate is there and not someone else."

Defending four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel did not even make the final session of qualifying and will start from 10th on the grid - promoted one spot as his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified third, gets a 10-place grid penalty from the previous race in Malaysia.

Vettel paid the price for a session-ending spin in pre-qualifying practice which prevented him from getting valuable data on how to set up the car on the soft-tire, low-fuel setting. He also complained of a downshifting problem.

"The final run for some reason was a bit more difficult, the rears were locking up," Vettel said. "We had been playing around with it for quite a while, we are still not where we want to be but I don't want to blame it on that. There was a little bit more in the car which I couldn't get to, so I am not happy with today."

Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and Force India's Sergio Perez qualified fourth and fifth respectively and, with the one-place promotion, both equaled their best career starting positions.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen qualified sixth, four places ahead of Fernando Alonso, to take the qualifying honors over his teammate for the first time this season in what is expected to a year-long fight between the two former world champions.

Alonso said the car was down on power in the final part of qualifying, though he felt the team's starting grid positions of fifth and ninth were "more or less what we expected to be honest."

"Q2 we were down a little bit and Q3 we lost more," Alonso said. "Still, we didn't miss out on the possibility of pole position because we are not in that kind of position. It's just a couple of places that hopefully tomorrow we can recover."

McLaren's Jenson Button, contesting his 250th grand prix, qualified in seventh and his teammate Kevin Magnussen was ninth, separated by Felipe Massa of Williams.

Aside from Vettel's early elimination, the main surprise of Q2 was Force India's Nico Hulkenberg qualifying in 12th, having been fastest of all drivers in Q1 and showing strong pace during the practice sessions.

Sauber's Adrian Sutil was hit with a five-place grid penalty for impeding Lotus' Romain Grosjean in the first session of qualifying, sending him to the very back of the grid.

Yankees place 1B Mark Teixeira on 15-day DL

TORONTO (AP) The New York Yankees have placed first baseman Mark Teixeira on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring and recalled catcher Austin Romine from Triple-A Scranton.

Teixeira left Friday's game in the second inning after he was injured while trying to field a foul grounder. Kelly Johnson moved from second base to first and Brian Roberts came in to play second.

Manager Joe Girardi says Teixeira will undergo an MRI exam when the Yankees return home Monday.

Johnson started at first base Saturday, and Girardi says Johnson will get the bulk of the playing time in Teixeira's absence. Dean Anna, Francisco Cervelli and Yangervis Solarte could also see time at first.

Teixeira was limited to 15 games last season after hurting his right wrist at the World Baseball Classic.

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