Friday’s Sports in Brief

Sports

GENERAL

The push to get vaccine booster shots is not an immediate priority in most of the top sports leagues in North America even with delta and omicron variants spreading.

The NFL and NHL have no current plans to follow the NBA’s lead and require players, coaches and staff to get a COVID-19 booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated under league protocols – even as cases continue to crop up.

Five NHL games have been postponed so far this season, with two teams getting briefly shut down to quell outbreaks, and high-profile vaccinated stars like Joel Embiid and Ben Roethlisberger have missed action after testing positive. It is a far cry from 2020 when the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball rescheduled dozens of games, but the pandemic is still proving disruptive.

NFL and NHL officials are instead touting current vaccination rates above 90% as the reason virus cases so far have largely been mild or asymptomatic. MLB is in a lockout that has cut off contact with players, but even before that there was no vaccine mandate or road map to add boosters.

PRO HOCKEY

Speaking at the conclusion of the board of governors meeting in Florida, Commissioner Gary Bettman the league will continue to honor its commitment to giving players the opportunity to compete in the Olympics in February.

But there is still no clarity on what happens if an NHL player tests positive for COVID-19 in China, including the length of a potential quarantine and if the individual will be allowed to leave the country during that period. Any significant disruption to the NHL schedule also could alter the league’s thinking on the Olympics.

”We made a promise,” Bettman said during a news conference at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa following the board’s first face-to-face meeting since 2019. ”It’s not like we haven’t expressed our concerns. But in the final analysis, subject to some caveats, with all of the issues that are being raised … the players, for the most part, seem to continue to be saying they want to go.”

The league made that promise to the NHL Players’ Association when the extension to the current collective bargaining agreement was signed ahead of pandemic-delayed 2019-20 season. The two parties then inked a deal with the International Ice Hockey Federation on the Games in September.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is The Associated Press college football coach of the year after leading the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title in 17 years and a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Harbaugh is the first Michigan coach to win the AP Coach of the Year Award presented by Regions Bank, and the first from the Big Ten since Penn State’s Joe Paterno in 2005.

He received 22 of 53 first-place votes and 103 points from a panel of AP Top 25 voters to finish ahead of Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, who had 16 first-place votes and 88 points.

Baylor’s Dave Aranda was third and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker was fourth. Georgia’s Kirby Smart was fifth with a first-place vote and Utah State’s Blake Anderson was sixth, receiving three first-place votes.

UNDATED (AP)Duke is turning to Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko to turn around its football program after a two-year slide and a winless Atlantic Coast Conference record.

The school announced Elko’s hiring Friday night, ending a nearly two-week process to hire the replacement for David Cutcliffe. The school announced Nov. 28 that Cutcliffe wouldn’t return following the first winless league mark of his 14 seasons. Yahoo! Sports first reported that Duke had reached an agreement with Elko.

Elko, 44, has spent the past four seasons as defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Texas A&M, he has also worked as a coordinator at Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Bowling Green in the past decade. This will be his first college head-coaching job.

In a statement, athletic director Nina King said Elko possesses ”an innovative football mind and a natural ability to connect with both players and coaches around him.”

GRAMBLING, La. (AP) – Former Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson is taking over as the coach of Grambling’s storied football program.

Jackson, who spent this season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Tennessee State, fills the vacancy created when Grambling fired eighth-year coach Broderick Fobbs last month.

”Hue is a professional and winner in all areas of life and a mentor to some of the best professional football players in the NFL,” athletic director Traveon Scott said.

Jackson spent 18 years in the NFL as a head coach or assistant with Washington, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Baltimore, the Raiders (who subsequently moved to Las Vegas) and Cleveland. Before that he spent about a decade on staffs at three Pac-12 programs (Arizona State, California and Southern California).

Grambling, a historically Black university where football became famous under College Football Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson Jr., has won 25 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships.

WACO, Texas (AP) – Dave Campbell, founder of the Texas Football preview magazine that became a fixture in this football-crazy state, has died. He was 96.

Campbell died at his home in Waco, said Greg Tepper, managing editor of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.

Known as ”the bible of Texas football,” the magazine was started by Campbell in 1960, seven years after he became sports editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Campbell served both roles for 25 years before selling the magazine and became synonymous with Baylor coverage in his role with the Waco paper. The press box at Baylor’s McLane Stadium is named after him, and he maintained a presence at athletic events until his death. Campbell retired from the newspaper in 1993.

While the magazine started as a comprehensive guide to former Southwest Conference and high school teams, it came to be known as the primary source of preps coverage in the state.

UNDATED (AP) – The racial gap in graduation rates for this year’s bowl teams in college football has shrunk, with a study pointing to gains by Black athletes for pushing that improvement.

The study from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida reported that the overall Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for bowl-bound teams had increased to 81.3%, up from 78% for 2020. Yet the racial gap fell as the average GSR for Black athletes rose from 73.4% in 2020 to 78% this year while white athletes remained steady at 89.7%.

The gap of 11.7 percentage points was down from a 16.3-point gap in 2020.

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