Friday's Sports in Brief

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Associated Press

Posted on December 22, 2012 at 9:02 AM

Updated Saturday, Dec 22 at 9:05 AM

Gymnast Gabby Douglas, the teenager who became the first African-American to win an all-around Olympic title, won the AP's Female Athlete of the Year on Friday.

She is the fourth gymnast to win the award and first since Mary Lou Retton in 1984. Douglas edged swimmer Missy Franklin in a vote by U.S. editors and news directors that was announced Friday.

"I didn't realize how much of an impact I made," said Douglas, who turns 17 on Dec. 31. "My mom and everyone said, 'You really won't know the full impact until you're 30 or 40 years old.' But it's starting to sink in."

In a year filled with standout performances by female athletes, those of the pint-sized gymnast shined brightest. Douglas received 48 of 157 votes, seven more than Franklin, who won four gold medals and a bronze in London. Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open two years after her career was nearly derailed by a series of health problems, was third (24).

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Count Rick Pitino among the basketball coaches who support gun control.

The Louisville coach was asked during a news conference about his reaction to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's comments Monday assailing the nation's gun culture following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Pitino agreed with Boeheim, and said he couldn't understand why people wouldn't support gun control.

On consecutive days, Boeheim and Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey used postgame news conferences to express sympathy for victims' families and stress the need for reforms to avoid another tragedy.

Pitino followed by adding that society doesn't need guns.

"The fact that every single person does not want (gun control) would be a mystery," he said. "This is not the beginning of American civilization where we need guns like it's the wild, wild West."

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA suspended Texas basketball player Myck Kabongo for 23 games for accepting impermissible benefits and providing false statements during an investigation into the infractions.

Kabongo also must repay $475 to a charity of his choice. The NCAA will count all 11 games that Kabongo has missed toward the suspension. Texas had self-imposed a 10-game penalty.

The NCAA said Kabongo accepted airfare and personal training instruction and then provided false and misleading information about the infractions during two interviews with university officials.

PRO HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) — NHL players are a step closer to dissolving their union.

In a vote this week, union members overwhelmingly agreed to give the players' association's executive board the power to file a "disclaimer of interest" until Jan. 2.

A person familiar with the outcome of the vote told The Associated Press that the measure was approved 706-22 (97 percent), easily reaching the two-thirds majority required. However, the executive board hasn't made plans yet to meet to discuss whether to file the disclaimer.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the results of the vote hadn't been announced.

If the executive board files the disclaimer, the union would dissolve and become a trade association. That would allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.

PRO FOOTBALL

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mark Sanchez knows he won't be the New York Jets' starting quarterback this week.

Beyond that, the one-time face of the franchise won't say whether he thinks he'll be back with the team next season.

"I really haven't even thought about it," Sanchez said. "Honestly, I'm a Jet. That's all I've known."

Whether Sanchez has played his final snap for the team remains to be seen. A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that the Jets will consider all of their options regarding Sanchez and backup Tim Tebow. Trades in the offseason cannot be ruled out, but the person, who requested anonymity because the team's personnel plans are private, told the AP that the Jets have not made any determinations involving Sanchez or Tebow.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois has been preparing all week to start in place of All-Pro Justin Smith on the NFL's second-ranked defense.

The 49ers remain uncertain whether that will actually happen Sunday night in a NFC West showdown against the Seattle Seahawks.

Smith's availability is in question after he missed practice Friday because of an elbow injury for the third consecutive day, placing his streak of 185 consecutive starts in jeopardy.

NEW YORK (AP) — Falcons strong safety Chris Hope was fined $30,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz.

Hope was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the third-quarter play during Atlanta's 34-0 win on Sunday.

Falcons wide receiver Roddy White and Giants cornerback Corey Webster were fined $7,875 apiece for a skirmish during the game.

In other penalties announced by the NFL, 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was docked $21,000 for an illegal hit; Titans defensive end Antonio Smith and Jets defensive end Quinton Coples were fined $15,750 each for helmet-to-helmet hits; Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Ravens cornerback Cary Williams were fined $15,750 each for unnecessary roughness; and Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason and Titans safety Jordan Babineaux were docked $7,875 apiece for unnecessary roughness.

SPORTS BETTING

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's battle with the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA will continue after a judge rejected arguments that the leagues couldn't prove they would be harmed if the state moves ahead with its plans to allow sports gambling.

In denying the state's request to dismiss the lawsuit by the NBA, NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp agreed that they have standing to file the suit because expanding legal sports betting to New Jersey would negatively affect perception of their games.

In his ruling, Shipp cited studies offered by the leagues that showed fans' negative attitudes toward game-fixing and sports gambling.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to lead Central Florida to a 38-17 victory over Ball State in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

Bortles threw first-half TD passes of 7 and 5 yards to Latavius Murray, who also scored on a 2-yard run to help the Knights (10-4) build a 21-point halftime lead and coast to victory in their final game as a member of Conference USA.

NORTH CANTON, Ohio (AP) — Ted Karras Jr., fresh from winning the NAIA championship at Marian, is the new head coach at Walsh.

The Northwestern graduate and nephew of the late former NFL star Alex Karras takes over for Jim Dennison, who started the program and then returned to guide it before resigning at the end of the 2011 season.

Ted Karras spent the last seven seasons at Marian, going 48-23 including a 12-1 record this year. He led the Knights past Morningside College 30-27 in overtime to win the NAIA title.

BASEBALL

Free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski passed a physical, clearing the way for a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers.

A person familiar with the deal said Pierzynski had a physical and everything was OK. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Rangers had not added Pierzynski to their 40-man roster.

With the Major League Baseball office closed for Christmas, the roster move won't be made until at least next week.

SOCCER

ALKMAAR, Netherlands (AP) — U.S. soccer player Jozy Altidore paid tribute to the 26 victims of the school shooting in Connecticut by wearing their names on his cleats during a game for the Dutch team AZ Alkmaar.

Altidore scrawled the names in black ink across his yellow cleats, plus wore a black band across one of his arms to represent mourning. The 20 students and six teachers at a school in Newtown, Conn. were killed Dec. 14.

TENNIS

MADRID (AP) — Rafael Nadal is nervous about his return to tennis after a seven-month layoff and believes it may be some time before his injured knee is completely healed.

Nadal told Canal Plus television that "I'm prepared to accept that my knee may not respond well at the beginning." He has considered playing off and on during the first three months of 2013.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A tennis referee whose career was almost ended by a charge that she murdered her husband with a coffee cup was reinstated after the charge was dismissed for lack of evidence.

Lois Goodman's attorneys said in Los Angeles that the U.S. Tennis Association approved her to resume judging matches in 2013. The organization confirmed her reinstatement.

SKIING

INNSBRUCK, Austria (AP) — Marlies Schild of Austria will be out three months following knee surgery and won't be able to defend her world slalom title in her home country in February.

SPEEDSKATING

KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Lana Gehring and JR Celski dominated the competition at the U.S. short track speedskating championships, sweeping the women's and men's gold, respectively, in the 1,500 and 500 meters at the Utah Olympic Oval.

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