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COLLEGE ATHLETICS

CHICAGO (AP) - Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter testified that he was essentially paid to play via his scholarship as the National Labor Relations Board opened a closely watched hearing on a bid to form what would be the first union for college athletes in U.S. history.

From a witnesses stand in a federal court building, Colter characterized playing college football as a job and said schools make clear to incoming players that athletics are a higher priority than academics.

Colter, a co-founder of the newly formed College Athletes Players Association, said players adhere to grueling schedules, putting in 40- to 50-hour weeks on football during and before the season. During August training, he said, players often start practice at 8 a.m. and finish at 10 p.m.

Whether the players qualify under federal law as employees is the core question for the NLRB. If they are deemed employees, they would have rights to unionize. Whatever ruling the panel makes can be appealed.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The chairman of the NCAA Football Rules Committee said a proposal to prohibit snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds run off the 40-second play clock should not go forward if there is no hard evidence showing up-tempo offenses endanger defensive players.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, the committee chairman, said he has yet to see a medical study linking the rapid pace of an offense to potential health issues for defensive players.

The Playing Rules Oversight Commission, which meets March 6, is the body that would approve the proposal for it to go into effect next season. Calhoun said evidence would need to be presented before the comment period ends March 3.

TENNIS

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Rafael Nadal showed no signs of a tender back, defeating fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 7-5 in the first round of the Rio Open.

It was No. 1-ranked Nadal’s first match since losing three weeks ago in the Australia Open final against Stanislas Wawrinka, a match the Spaniard was a heavy favorite to win.

Nadal looked fine on the outdoor red clay and seems headed for a possible final Sunday against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. Ferrer defeated Jeremy Chardy in his first-round match 6-2, 6-3.

Other seeded players advancing included: No. 3 Fognini, No. 4 Tommy Robredo, No. 7 Juan Monaco and 8 Pablo Andujar. Ousted were No. 5 Nicolas Almagro and No. 6 Marcel Granollers.

In the combined WTA event, top-seeded Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic won her first-round match, beating Colombia’s Mariana Duque-Marino 6-4, 6-4. Second-seeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy was eliminated in a 6-4, 6-4 to Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

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