- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016


NEW YORK (AP) - The longtime former head of the Nicaraguan soccer federation who most recently was employed by FIFA pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges after he became the last of seven men extradited after their arrests in Zurich last year.

Julio Rocha, 65, entered the plea in Brooklyn federal court through his lawyer, William Sullivan.

Rocha was the last of seven men, including two FIFA vice presidents, to be extradited after a raid last May in Zurich exposed what officials described as a sprawling bribery scheme that had infested the governing body of international soccer. Six were extradited to the United States and one man was extradited to Uruguay.

Rocha was freed on $1.5 million bail after agreeing to submit to electronic monitoring and stay at a Florida residence until trial. Friends and family, some in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, were expected to sign his bond, posting homes, stock and cash to back it up. He also was banned from communicating with various FIFA entities or their affiliates.

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) - Aston Villa was sold to a Chinese businessman after a decade under the American ownership of Randy Lerner.

The sale to Tony Jiantong Xia’s Recon Group follows the central England club’s relegation from the Premier League after placing last in the 2015-16 season.

No details of the deal were available. The takeover is subject to approval by English football authorities, Villa said, including Xia being declared a “fit and proper” director.

One of Xia’s immediate priorities is appointing a manager to lead the club’s return to the top flight, Villa said on its website, with the new owner then targeting European qualification with a top-six finish.


NEW YORK (AP) - The New York Knicks want Jeff Hornacek as their next coach.

The team is working on a deal to hire Hornacek, a person with knowledge of the details told The Associated Press.

President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson has had discussions with the former Phoenix Suns coach and there is mutual interest, but they have not begun negotiations on a contract, the person said on condition of anonymity because details of the coaching search are private.

Bleacher Report first reported that the Knicks would hire Hornacek.

The Knicks finished the season with Kurt Rambis as interim coach after Jackson fired Derek Fisher in February. Jackson also met with former Cleveland coach David Blatt and former Indiana coach Frank Vogel before turning his attention to Hornacek.


NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has backed manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff and has blamed players for the team’s slow start.

With New York last in the AL East, Steinbrenner singled out Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino for criticism.

Speaking outside Major League Baseball’s offices, Steinbrenner says “the first five weeks were disappointing, frustrating, particularly looking at the offense. Clearly not living up to their potential. … When you look at a guy like Mark Teixeira, clearly he’s not playing to his potential with the bat.”

He says Pineda’s decline is “concerning” and it is up to the pitcher to figure out. Severino, he adds, has “to learn how to push through that downturn.”


WACO, Texas (AP) - An examination of Waco police records over a five-year period found more allegations of violent incidents involving Baylor football players who were not charged, appeared to face little or no discipline from the team even though coaches and administrators knew about the allegations and that some documents were shielded from public view by officers, ESPN reported.

Baylor has faced mounting criticism in recent months for its handling of reports of sex assault and rapes involving football players and students. The Baptist university hired Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton in 2015 to review how the school handled those cases. The firm presented some findings to the school’s board of regents last week, but school officials have not released any details or said whether any will be made public.

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” obtained a database of assault cases that were reported to Waco police and matched them against Baylor football rosters from 2011 to 2015.


NEW YORK (AP) - As many as 50 class-action lawsuits contesting how the NCAA, major college football conferences or individual schools handled concussions will be filed in the coming months by former players seeking damages for lingering brain injuries and ailments.

The first batch of six lawsuits was filed Tuesday and Chicago-based attorney Jay Edelson said the next wave will likely be filed within the next two weeks.

The first six lawsuits were filed by players who played for Georgia, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Oregon, Utah and Penn State. The former football players claim problems ranging from loss of memory and cognitive function to dementia.

The lawsuits come as a settlement in another concussion case against the NCAA is awaiting approval by a federal judge.

Former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington in 2011 sued the NCAA over its handling of concussions and it resulted in a proposed settlement that provided no damages to be paid to players for injuries.


PRAGUE (AP) - Usain Bolt called it “really bad news” for sport after the announcement that 31 athletes were caught doping in retests from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“It’s rough. It’s rough in the sport,” the Jamaican great said. “Something that’s been tarnishing the sport for years.”

Bolt was speaking a day after the International Olympic Committee announced that the 31 athletes could be banned from competing at the Rio de Janeiro Games. He said the World Anti-Doping Agency and others “are doing a very good job of cleaning up the sport. They’ve proven that anybody who has cheated, they’re going to catch.”

Bolt will run in the 100 meters at the Golden Spike meet in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava on Friday, his first race in Europe ahead of the Rio Games.

He said he believed that the crackdown on doping could prove successful.

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