NCAA investigating Syracuse — Syracuse has been under investigation for possible NCAA violations, mostly in its basketball program, for at least a year, according to two media reports. CBS Sports.com, citing an unidentified source, reported Wednesday that the school has received a letter of preliminary inquiry from the NCAA. The Post-Standard reported NCAA investigators have been conducting interviews with Syracuse employees and former employees. The newspaper said the investigation includes the handling of former player Fab Melo’s academic eligibility. In 2012, the star center was declared ineligible for the NCAA tournament days before it started.
Oregon’s Russell player of year — Springfield High School’s Mercedes Russell was named the Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, becoming the first girl from Oregon to earn the honor. The 6-foot-5 Russell averaged 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 5.5 blocks per game her senior year for the Millers. In this year’s OSAA Class 5A girls tournament, she had 32 points, 14 rebounds and 12 blocks in a semifinal victory over Hermiston. She wrapped up her prep career with 2,273 points, 1,642 rebounds and 562 blocked shots.
Big East officially adds three — The breakaway basketball schools kept the Big East name and the conference tournament in Madison Square Garden. In return, they left behind tens of millions of dollars to the football members. That was easy to do with a lucrative television contract awaiting. The new Big East launched as a 10-member league Wednesday with the additions of Butler, Creighton and Xavier and a 12-year deal with Fox. The agreement is worth about $500 million with the possibility of increasing to $600 million were the league to add more members, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the value of the agreement was not made public. The so-called Catholic 7 schools completed their exit from the Big East earlier this month. They’ll start play with their three new colleagues in the fall.
Watson changes Ryder Cup picks — Tom Watson is giving back one of his captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup. In his first big move since he was appointed U.S. captain last year, Watson said Wednesday he would take the top nine players off the Ryder Cup standings and select three players as captain’s picks. For the last three matches, only eight Americans qualified for the team and the U.S. captain had four picks. “Giving our players one more opportunity to earn a spot on merit, I believe, is the right thing to do," Watson said. The next Ryder Cup is in 2014 in Scotland.
Pro Bowl is back — The Pro Bowl will return to Honolulu next January and again will be played the week before the Super Bowl. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday at the owners meetings that the all-star game he once considered scrapping has been scheduled for Aloha Stadium on Jan. 26. He added that Hawaii will be included “on some sort of rotational basis" in any future Pro Bowl scheduling. Goodell was encouraged by the level of performance in this year’s game, won 62-35 by the NFC.
Bears, Urlacher done — The Chicago Bears are parting ways with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher after 13 years. General manager Phil Emery said Wednesday that the team couldn’t agree on a contract with Urlacher, for years the heart and face of the franchise. He is now a free agent after being slowed by a knee problem and then missing the last four games of the season with a hamstring injury.
Dempsey is U.S. captain — Clint Dempsey will be the U.S. captain for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann says Wednesday he chose Dempsey because the striker “has been huge for us in World Cup qualifying so far." Dempsey leads the Americans with six goals in seven games in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
—From wire reports