Sports briefs 4/12/05

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


* Mark Prior will make his first start of the season Tuesday for the Chicago Cubs when they play San Diego.

Prior was on the disabled list with elbow inflammation and made one minor league rehab start in Albuquerque with Triple-A Iowa on April 7. He struggled, giving up seven runs in six innings, including six in the first. He threw 30 pitches off the mound Sunday but the Cubs wanted to see how his elbow felt Monday before making any decisions.

"I feel good and ready to go," Prior said. "I expect to give us a chance to win the ballgame."

Also Monday, second baseman Todd Walker was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left knee and could be out four to six weeks. The Cubs called up Mike Fontenot from Triple-A Iowa to take Walker's spot on the roster. The left-handed infielder hit .308 with a solo homer in his first four games in Iowa. He was acquired from Baltimore in the Sammy Sosa trade.


* Stephany Smith, who led Middle Tennessee to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, was named coach of Alabama's women's basketball team Monday.

Smith will replace the program's winningest coach, Rick Moody, who retired after 16 seasons, the school announced Monday. The Crimson Tide, once one of the Southeastern Conference's top programs, hasn't been back to the NCAA tournament since 1999.

Alabama will formally introduce Smith as coach on Wednesday.

Smith posted a 153-88 record in eight seasons with Middle Tennessee, leading the team to three NCAA tournaments and five postseason appearances. She led the Lady Raiders to 48 wins the past two seasons, the most of any two-year stretch for the program.

* Jeff Neubauer, an assistant at West Virginia the past three seasons, was named Monday as the basketball coach at Eastern Kentucky.

Neubauer, 34, replaces Travis Ford, who left the team for Massachusetts last month. Ford guided the Colonels to a 61-80 record and their first NCAA tournament berth in 26 years this past season.

West Virginia reached the Elite Eight, losing to Louisville in the Albuquerque Regional Final.

Neubauer, a 1993 La Salle graduate, also was an assistant coach at The Citadel for three seasons and at Richmond for five seasons.

Eastern Kentucky gave Neubauer a four-year contract with an annual salary of $150,000.

* A former Kansas State football player was charged Monday with raping a woman in the dorm where he lives.

Aaron Darks, 19, was being held on $25,000 bond after appearing in court Monday afternoon. The alleged rape happened early Friday morning. Darks was arrested Saturday after turning himself in to university police.

Kansas State said Darks, a redshirt freshman linebacker from Lufkin, Texas, had been cut from the team before the start of spring practice for violating team rules. Earlier this year, Darks submitted a request for withdrawal from all of his classes at the university, officials said.


* Free agent linebacker Tommy Polley signed a one-year contract Monday with the Baltimore Ravens, who expect the four-year veteran to play next to Ray Lewis in the team's new 4-3 alignment.

Polley comes to the Ravens from the St. Louis Rams, where he averaged 72 1/2 tackles a season. He joined the Rams in 2001 after starting three years at Florida State.

"It's good to be home," said Polley, who played high school football in Baltimore. "It's great for me and my family, but I'm here to do a job, and that's to get this team back to the Super Bowl."

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Polley had 78 tackles in 15 games last year. He fills the void left by the departure of Ed Hartwell, who signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons.

"We need another linebacker to team up with Ray," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Tommy is a very athletic player that can run from sideline to sideline. He also has the ability to cover backs and tight ends down the field."

First-year defensive coordinator Rex Ryan this season will switch to a 4-3 alignment from the 3-4 set the team has used for the past several years. If Polley does his part, Lewis will be free to roam the middle.

* The St. Louis Rams announced Monday they have signed CB Michael Hawthorne to a one-year contract.

No terms of the contract were announced.

Hawthorne has spent the last two seasons with Green Bay, and his first three seasons with New Orleans. He was selected by the Saints in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.

He has played in 58 games, starting 14. He has 127 tackles with one sack, three interceptions, one fumble recovery, three forced fumbles and 53 special teams tackles.

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