Sports briefs 12/17/04

Friday, December 17, 2004

Basketball

* Shaquille O'Neal leads his new conference in early All-Star game voting, while Yao Ming is No. 1 overall in the NBA.

O'Neal, traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Miami Heat in the offseason, tops the Eastern Conference with 854,930 votes as of Thursday. Yao, the center for the Western Conference's Houston Rockets, is the only player with more votes, 881,223.

Fans can vote through Jan. 23, and All-Star starters will be announced Feb. 3. The game is Feb. 20 in Denver.

Colleges

* William & Mary quarterback Lang Campbell won the Walter Payton Award on Thursday night as the top offensive player in Division I-AA.

Campbell received 40 first-place votes and 315 points from a panel of Division I-AA sports information directors and media.

Sam Houston State quarterback Dustin Long finished second with 17 first-place votes and 185 points. Appalachian State wide receiver DaVon Fowlkes was third with eight first-place votes and 151 points.

Campbell, the Atlantic 10 offensive player of the year, threw for 3,037 yards and 21 touchdowns, with just one interception, during the regular season. He also ran for 201 yards and seven touchdowns.

He led William & Mary to a share of the Atlantic 10 title with a 9-2 regular season record, but the Tribe lost to James Madison in the semifinals of the Division I-AA playoffs.

* Frank Solich on Thursday was named head coach at Ohio University -- a far cry from Nebraska, the prestigious program where he was head coach before getting fired after a 9-3 regular season in 2003.

Ohio's stadium seats just 24,000 fans, and the school has had just two winning seasons since 1982

Solich was 58-19 in six seasons at Nebraska, but he was fired after going 16-12 in his last 28 games, with eight of those losses by 21 points or more.

Football

* Mike Ditka became a minority owner of the Chicago Rush of Arena Football on Thursday.

The Chicago icon joins the likes of fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway (Colorado) and music stars Jon Bon Jovi (Philadelphia) and Tim McGraw (Nashville) as a team owner in the indoor league.

Ditka was a five-time Pro Bowl player at tight end in the NFL, playing for Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas.

* Fifteen seasons may not be not enough for Emmitt Smith.

The NFL's most prolific ball carrier sounds as if he would like to come back for a 16th, either with the Arizona Cardinals or with some other team.

"I don't have no problem playing next year," he said after Thursday's practice.

Smith stopped just short of saying for sure he will come back.

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