Sports briefs 6/8/05

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Basketball

* Scott Skiles agreed to a contract extension with the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, one day after the coach said he had ended negotiations for a deal.

General manager John Paxson would not disclose the terms of the contract, but said: "He's going to get paid well, it's in line with the top coaches."

Skiles said he called Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf on Tuesday and they came to an understanding.

In the Bulls' second season under Skiles, they improved from 19-47 to 47-35 then lost to Washington in the first round of the playoffs. .

College

* A Valparaiso University basketball player is making significant progress after collapsing and nearly dying from apparent heart failure two months ago.

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago says it may release six-foot-ten sophomore center Kenny Harris as early as next week.

The Griffith High School grad was in the university's athletic center weight room when he collapsed during a supervised workout April eleventh. He did not regain consciousness for nearly a month.

Coach Homer Drew says it's too early to know whether the runner-up for Indiana's 2003 Mr. Basketball award will play the game again.

* University of Illinois football coach Ron Zook has suspended redshirt freshman quarterback Kisan Flakes from the team indefinitely after he was charged with marijuana possession.

Authorities stopped Flakes for a traffic violation in Champaign around 1 a.m. Friday and allegedly discovered marijuana in the vehicle, according to a University of Illinois police report. He pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

Zook announced Monday that Flakes was suspended indefinitely until he is able to gather all the facts.

Flakes, who earned all-state high school offensive player of the year honors while playing in Lovejoy, Ga., was competing for the starting quarterback position for the Illini during spring football.

* Harry Birdwell announced Tuesday he will step down as Oklahoma State's athletic director on Dec. 31 after three years in the post, saying he wanted to pursue other opportunities.

During a press conference following his announcement, an emotional Birdwell insisted he had not been asked to step down.

"I made this decision. It was of my own volition," he said. "It is a deeply personal decision. You know how much I love this place, so it's a tough day."

Birdwell said the loss of Vernon Grant, the 22-year-old OSU safety who died in a car crash in Dallas last month, had a profound impact on him.

"The Vernon Grant deal showed me how short life is, that you really need to follow the callings on your life," said Birdwell, his voice trembling with emotion.

Birdwell, 57, did not specifically say what he plans to do after he steps down.

Football

* Troubled Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith has been suspended by the NFL for the entire 2005 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

The announcement had been expected for several weeks, ever since Vikings head coach Mike Tice suspended Smith indefinitely following an embarrassing run-in at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Smith was stopped April 21 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after his bag set off a screening device. A search found several vials of dried urine and "The Original Whizzinator," which is marketed as a way to beat drug tests.

Smith told police the gear was for his cousin. He wasn't charged by police, and the NFL has said possession of the device alone isn't enough to violate league drug policies.

The NFL's did not give a specific reason for Smith's suspension.

Smith missed four games last season for violating the league's drug policy, and had two strikes against him before the latest violation. The third strike in the program comes with an automatic one-year suspension.

Golf

* The LPGA Tour is counting on an innovative playoff system and its $1 million first prize to provide the postseason boost it's looking for.

The tour will have its own version of playoffs in 2006, culminating with players competing for the richest payoff in women's golf in the "LPGA Playoffs at The ADT."

Plenty of details still need to be worked out, but commissioner Ty Votaw unveiled on Tuesday the new format, golf's first year-end playoff system comparable to other sports.

"For the first time, a group of players competing for a season-long championship has, at the end of that rainbow, a real bucket of gold, $1 million first-place check," Votaw, in his seventh and final year as commissioner, said two days before the start LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock.

The 2006 season will be split into two parts, with players earning points toward making the 32-player field at the ADT Championship at Trump International, which previously served as a Tour Championship.

Fifteen players from each half of the season and two wild cards will advance to the playoffs. They will be playing for the $1 million prize, nearly double the biggest payoff in women's golf.

-- From wire reports

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