USC QB Barkley to return for
senior season, eyes BCS game
Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley announced Thursday he’s returning for his senior season, putting off the NFL for a chance to lead the Trojans from under the cloud of NCAA sanctions to a BCS bowl.
Barkley was projected as a high first-round pick in the NFL Draft, but said he was staying in school “so I can finish what I started.”
Barkley led USC to a 10-2 record and a No. 5 ranking, throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. The Trojans won seven of their final eight games, though they had to endure a second straight bowl-less season because of postseason sanctions that end next season.
Also: Quarterbacks Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps, both highly recruited out of high school, will transfer to Kansas.
Crist will join the Jayhawks for his senior season after a checkered career at Notre Dame. He will be reunited with new Kansas coach Charlie Weis, who recruited him to play for the Irish, and will be eligible next season because he has graduated from Notre Dame.
Heaps must sit out under NCAA transfer rules but will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. He lost his starting job this season to Riley Nelson.
Junior college defensive end Parker Holloway signed with UNLV. Holloway, who also received offers from Oklahoma State and North Carolina, is a midyear signee from Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, meaning he will enroll in January and go through spring practices. Rivals.com rates him as a three-star prospect.
Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was named Pittsburgh’s head coach. He replaces Todd Graham, who left for Arizona State last week after less than a year on the job.
Chryst, 46, is Pitt’s fourth head coach in 13 months, following Dave Wannstedt, Mike Haywood and Graham, who left for the Sun Devils after a 6-6 season. Chryst molded Wisconsin into an offensive powerhouse since joining the program in 2005.
Texas A&M senior offensive lineman Joseph Villavisencio was killed in a car accident Thursday, the university said.
Witness reports said Villavisencio swerved to avoid a buzzard and veered head-on into the path of an 18-wheeler near the town of Normangee about 40 miles from College Station.
Terry Bowden, who spent six seasons at Auburn and the past three at Division II North Alabama, was hired as Akron’s coach. He takes over a team that went 2-22 and won one conference game the past two seasons. Bowden, 140-62-2 in 18 seasons as a coach, replaces Rob Ianello, who was fired in November.
Manning will be with Colts
in 2012 if healthy, Irsay says
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said quarterback Peyton Manning will play for the team next season if he’s healthy.
Irsay told NFL Network he couldn’t foresee a scenario in which Manning would play anywhere but Indianapolis unless he can’t play at all. Manning has missed the entire season and has not participated in full team practices since having the third and most invasive surgery on his neck Sept. 8.
“I think the situation is if he’s back and he’s healthy, I see him coming back and playing here,” Irsay said. “I think the hope is that his health is in the position where he could return again. That remains uncertain, and that’s something that’s first and foremost on my mind.”
Irsay also said the Colts would take a quarterback if the right one was available in April’s NFL Draft. At 2-13, they are among the front-runners for the No. 1 overall pick, with Stanford’s Andrew Luck the likely choice.
Also: Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin had surgery on his knee for torn cartilage and will miss the final two weeks of the regular season but will return for the playoffs. The Ravens did not say which knee is injured.
In other Ravens news, Shayne Graham will kick in place of Billy Cundiff on Saturday against the Cleveland Browns. Cundiff has been struggling with a left calf injury and has missed three of his five field-goal attempts in December.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed practice to rest his sprained left ankle and will be a game-time decision Saturday when the Steelers host the St. Louis Rams.
Beltran, Cards agree to pact
worth reported $26 million
Carlos Beltran and the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a two-year contract pending results of a physical, a move that would fortify the team’s lineup after the departure of Albert Pujols.
KMOX, the Cardinals’ flagship radio station, reported the deal is for $26 million over two years, the same figure a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
Beltran, 34, batted .300 with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs and a .385 on-base percentage for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants last season. He probably will be the Opening Day right fielder for the Cardinals. Lance Berkman is expected to move to first base, taking Pujols’ spot.
Also: All-Star pitcher Gio Gonzalez said the Oakland Athletics have agreed to trade him to the Washington Nationals, and the deal is nearly finished.
A person with knowledge of the deal said Oakland will receive four players, including three top prospects: right-handers A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock, left-hander Tom Milone and catcher Derek Norris. The person also said the Nationals would receive minor league right-hander Rob Gilliam from the A’s.
Gonzalez, the subject of trade talk all offseason, went 16-12 last season — a career high for wins — with a 3.12 ERA in 32 starts and was selected to his first All-Star Game. The left-hander has reached 200 innings the past two seasons.
The New York Yankees were hit with a $13.9 million luxury tax bill, their lowest since 2003. The fee, assessed by Major League Baseball under its labor contract, is down from $18 million last year and $25.7 million in 2009, when the Yankees won the World Series.
Boston, which missed the playoffs for the second straight season, is the only other team that will have to pay a tax. The Red Sox received a bill for $3.4 million, up from last year’s $1.5 million.
Pitcher Jason Marquis agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins. The 33-year-old went 8-5 with a 3.95 ERA for the Washington Nationals last season before being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 30. The right-hander was 0-1 with a 9.53 ERA in three starts for Arizona.
Kurt Busch reaches deal with
Phoenix Racing for next season
Kurt Busch, who became one of NASCAR’s most polarizing figures this past season, will return to the Sprint Cup series in 2012 to drive the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing and owner James Finch.
Busch said the deal was finalized late Wednesday over a few cold Miller Lites in an establishment located “in the shadows of Charlotte Motor Speedway.”
Busch parted ways with Penske Racing after a tumultuous season in which he clashed with two reporters in Richmond, Va., then was fined $50,000 by NASCAR for profanities directed at ESPN’s Jerry Punch and using a hand gesture at the season’s final race Nov. 20 in Homestead, Fla.
Also: The IndyCar schedule will have a different look in 2012. China will host its first race Aug. 19, Detroit and Fontana, Calif., are back on the schedule, and only four of 15 races are slated for ovals.
It could change again, too. Series CEO Randy Bernard said he’s still contemplating the addition of two more races.
The long-awaited schedule had been delayed as the series conducted an investigation into the October crash that killed two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Some critics contended it was too dangerous for the series to race on ovals, and only Indianapolis, Texas, Iowa and Fontana appear on the schedule.
The New Jersey Nets will be without center and leading scorer Brook Lopez for a couple of months because of a broken right foot. Lopez, who did not miss a game in his first three seasons, was injured during an exhibition game against the Knicks on Wednesday and will have surgery today.
Lopez averaged 20.4 points and 6.0 rebounds last season. To replace him, the Nets traded a second-round draft pick to the Utah Jazz for veteran center Mehmet Okur, who will make $10.8 million this season in the final year of his contract.
UNLV freshman Balint Batka was named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Men’s Swimmer of the Week. The Budapest, Hungary, native won the 500 free, 200 fly and 100 back in the UNLV Winter Invitational.