* Cincinnati coach says he’s not headed to Colorado: Butch Jones denied he has agreed to become the football coach at the University of Colorado. In a text message to The Associated Press on Wednesday night, Jones called a report that he’s accepted the position “absolutely false." The University of Cincinnati coach has been weighing his options since meeting with athletic director Mike Bohn and other Colorado officials on Monday. Asked about the hiring, Bohn responded in a text that “our process is not complete." Jones was Colorado’s top choice to replace Jon Embree. Jones is 50-27 as a head coach.
• Vikings put Harvin on IR: The Minnesota Vikings placed ailing wide receiver Percy Harvin on injured reserve Wednesday, abruptly ending a season that began so well for one of the NFL’s most versatile players. Coach Leslie Frazier answered questions about Harvin’s status cryptically and vaguely at his regular news conference, when he ruled Harvin out of practice again because of the severely sprained ankle that has kept him out of the past three games. Then about six hours later, the Vikings announced the move that declared their top pass-catcher done for the year. In nine games, Harvin finished with 677 yards and three touchdowns on 62 receptions, 22 rushes for 96 yards and one score and one kickoff return for a touchdown.
• Seattle CB Browner suspended: The Seattle Seahawks are about to find out how much losing at least one of their top cornerbacks means to their defense. Brandon Browner has dropped the appeal of his suspension for using performance-enhancing substances and will miss the final four games of the regular season, the league announced Wednesday. Browner’s loss leaves the Seahawks without a Pro Bowl cornerback whose size and physical play has flustered wide receivers for much of the past two seasons. Walter Thurmond, who was a starter for a short time during the 2011 season before suffering a leg injury, will take Browner’s spot. Browner will be eligible to rejoin the team on Dec. 31 and will be able to play in the postseason should the Seahawks make the playoffs.
• Roethlisberger nears return: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin challenged Ben Roethlisberger to prove his sprained right shoulder is ready to go before handing the keys to the offense back to his franchise quarterback. A few dozen passes Wednesday appear to have provided a pretty compelling argument. Admittedly a little rusty while going through his first serious workout since injuring his shoulder and dislocating a rib during a 16-13 overtime win over Kansas City on Nov. 12, Roethlisberger reported no major issues after letting it loose following a three-week layoff and seems on track to start on Sunday against San Diego.
• Purdue hires Kent State coach: Purdue has hired Kent State’s Darrell Hazell as its new coach. Hazell won this season’s Mid-American Conference coach of the year award after leading Kent State to its first winning season since 2001, first bowl appearance in more than four decades and the brink of a BCS bowl game. This year, Hazell’s squad went 11-2 (8-0) and won the MAC East.
• IOC strips four medals from 2004 Games: Eight years after winning Olympic medals in Athens, four track and field athletes from eastern Europe were ordered to hand them back Wednesday because of positive doping tests. The International Olympic Committee executive board disqualified four athletes whose Athens doping samples were retested earlier this year and came back positive for steroids, including shot put gold medalist Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine. Also stripped were hammer throw silver medalist Ivan Tskikhan of Belarus and two bronze medalists — women’s shot putter Svetlana Krivelyova of Russia and discus thrower Irina Yatchenko of Belarus. The IOC, meanwhile, held off stripping Lance Armstrong of the bronze he won 12 years ago in the cycling road time trial in Sydney, citing procedural reasons for the delay.
• U.S. teen in mix in Dubai: American defending champion Lexi Thompson opened with a 3-under 69 Wednesday at the Dubai Ladies Masters in the United Arab Emirates, three shots off the leaders. Shanshan Feng and Florentyna Parker both shot 66s after the first round of the tournament.
• Labor meetings going well: Negotiations between hockey owners and players are going so well that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says he’s “pleased with the process" — even if he has been left outside the latest rounds of discussions. Still stuck on the perimeter with players’ association executive director Donald Fehr, Bettman made a brief statement Wednesday on the state of the ongoing lockout after the league’s board of governors met for about two hours. Bettman declined to take any questions as he stood at an NHL podium in a Manhattan hotel, just one floor away from where talks resumed for a second straight day. A ray of hope that a season-saving deal could be made emerged late Tuesday night after about eight hours of bargaining. “We are pleased with the process that is ongoing, and out of respect for that process I don’t have anything else to say," Bettman said.
— The Associated Press