Big East school will replace Maryland in ACC

952221.jpg

Big East school will replace Maryland in ACC

From Comcast SportsNetAtlantic Coast Conference leaders got the school they wanted. Louisville was relieved to find a home amid the latest wave of realignment.The ACC announced Wednesday that its presidents and chancellors unanimously voted to add Louisville as the replacement for Maryland, which will join the Big Ten in 2014.Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was concerned the Cardinals would be left behind in a constantly shifting landscape."You always worry about that, there's no question about it -- especially when you're sitting in our chairs," Jurich said in a teleconference. "But I think when you look at what we've done and the body of work, I think it was very well worth it to wait because we were able to get what we wanted."We feel it's the best fit for this university."Louisville was a candidate to join the Big 12 last year before that league took West Virginia, though Maryland's unexpected announcement last week created a new opportunity for both the school and the ACC.But it wasn't a lock for the Cardinals.A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that ACC leaders also considered Connecticut and Cincinnati over the past week before the vote to add Louisville during a conference call Wednesday morning. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the ACC hasn't released details of the expansion discussionsThe Cardinals will bring a tradition-rich men's basketball program, a solid football program and a college-focused market to the ACC."When you look at Louisville, you see a university and an athletic program that has all the arrows pointed up -- a tremendous uptick there, tremendous energy," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. "It's always an overall fit in every respect and I think that's what we found."Louisville is the fourth school in 15 months and seventh in the past decade to leave the Big East for the ACC. Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced their move in September 2011 and will join the league next year, while Notre Dame said two months ago that it would eventually join in all conference sports except football.Most of Notre Dame's non-football sports have competed in the Big East since 1995."We had incredible success in that conference," Jurich said of the Big East. "But when it began to deteriorate, we felt that all our options were pulled away from us and we had to look and we were forced to look."To see a lot of your peers moving around you and leaving nobody to schedule, it was very, very difficult for us to see and a very once-proud conference I think was in a very difficult position."Politicians around Kentucky cheered the move.Louisville mayor Greg Fischer issued a statement calling the ACC's decision "a fantastic development for the university, the city and the state." U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement the move was a credit to Jurich's leadership of the athletic department.It's unclear exactly when Louisville will join the ACC. Swofford said that would have to be worked out between the school and the Big East. He also said the league is comfortable staying at 14 full members with the addition of Louisville.The Big East has a 27-month notification period for any member that wants to leave. The Big East has shown a willingness to negotiate, as it did with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who paid 7.5 million each to get out early when the exit fee was 5 million.The Big East has since increased that fee to 10 million.This latest rapid-fire round of realignment was set off last week by the Big Ten's additions of Maryland and Rutgers, which will join that conference in 2014.On Tuesday, the Big East added Tulane for all sports and East Carolina for football only, also beginning in 2014.In a statement, Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco wished Louisville well and said the league's additions are important for its future."We are committed to a vibrant and dynamic future for the Big East Conference," Aresco said.Louisville's addition will add some extra juice to what's already one of the nation's premier conferences for men's basketball.Louisville, currently ranked No. 5, brings a program that has won two national championships and reached its ninth Final Four last season. In addition, Rick Pitino will give the league another marquee coaching name alongside Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina's Roy Williams and soon Jim Boeheim of Syracuse.The school's football program is a win away from earning a BCS berth. Charlie Strong's Cardinals travel to Rutgers on Thursday night for a game in which they could clinch the Big East's BCS bid.The ACC's decision to add Louisville is a blow for Connecticut, which had been looking for a landing spot since Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced their Big East exits. UConn President Susan Herbst had indicated that an invitation to join that ACC is something the school would welcome."We will be athletically successful, regardless of our conference, because of our successes in NCAA competition," Herbst said in a statement. "... I realize this is a difficult day, but when we focus on research, discovery, and student success, we'll never go wrong."

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''

 

Acciari nearing a return for Bruins after missing a month

bruins_noel_acciari_082816.jpg

Acciari nearing a return for Bruins after missing a month

BRIGHTON, Mass. – He hasn’t been cleared to play just yet, but fourth line energy guy Noel Acciari is closing in on a return to the Bruins lineup. 

Acciari joined in for a Bruins morning skate for the first time in 14 games at the end of last week, and practiced with the team again Monday for a morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. The 25-year-old has missed almost exactly a month with a lower body injury, and said he can thankfully now see the light at the end of the injury tunnel for a healthy return to the B’s lineup. 

“It was getting lonely with all the guys on the road, and with me just skating with Frankie [Vatrano] and Zee [Chara],” said Acciari. “It’s great to be back out there with the guys, and it’s good to be back. Each skate I feel a lot better out there and just trying to get my conditioning back. Just being back with the guys is a great feeling, and it’s a big help.”

The fourth line has been okay in Acciari’s absence, but it seemed to be lacking the same kind of energy and hard edge the Providence College standout provided when he was healthy. That was part of what led the B’s to call up the similarly rugged Anton Blidh from Providence at the end of last week, and could provide some interesting energy line options when Acciari is ready to return. 

“I’ve played with [Blidh] before, I’m used to him and I know what he brings to the table just like he knows what I can do,” said Acciari. “So it would work out well [if we played together] I think.”

Acciari has two assists and a plus-1 rating along with four penalty minutes while averaging 10:01 of ice time in 12 games this season, and proved to be very good at unnerving opponents simply by playing all-out all the time.