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Aresco: Big East 'unwilling' to accommodate Boise

Aresco: Big East 'unwilling' to accommodate Boise

NEW YORK (AP) Big East tried to work a deal to keep Boise State on board, but was ``unwilling'' to give the Broncos the deal that kept them in the Mountain West.

``We worked hard with Boise,'' Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday. ``We explored a lot of different ways to keep them. No question. Ultimately, we were unwilling to do the things they wanted. Our membership was unwilling to make the deal the Mountain West made with them.''

Boise State had committed to play football in the Big East, starting in 2013. But the school announced Monday it was reversing course and staying in the Mountain West. The Mountain West recently re-worked its television contract with CBS Sports Network to allow the conference to sell packages of its games to other networks. The deal will allow teams that appear on national TV more often to make more money. Also, the league agreed to sell Boise State home games in a separate package.

The Mountain West also agreed to allow teams in its conference that play in BCS games and the equivalent when the new postseason system starts in 2014 to keep half the money. The rest of the conference will split the other half. In most leagues, all bowl money is shared equally.

That deal, added to the most recent defections from the Big East that caused even more instability in that league, caused Boise State to change course.

San Diego State, another Mountain West team currently committed to play football in the Big East in 2013, also is reconsidering.

``I don't know the deal with San Diego State,'' Aresco said. ``That could come clear in the next few days. We're in close touch with them.''

Without San Diego State, the Big East has 10 schools committed for next season: Current members Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Temple, Louisville and Rutgers, plus newcomers Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston. Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) have announced they are leaving. While the departure date for each is uncertain, it would be surprising if either is in the conference beyond 2013.

The Big East had hoped to have a 12-team, coast-to-coast football conference, with a championship game.

East Carolina, for football only, and Tulane are scheduled to join the Big East in 2014, ostensibly to replace Rutgers and Louisville.

``This group does want to stay together,'' Aresco said. ``Everybody wants to stay in. We've had strong support from the Texas schools.''

Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said his league has been in touch with several schools about further expansion, and media reports have mentioned SMU and Houston as possible targets.

The Big East has been trying to negotiate a new television deal during all this membership chaos, a task that has proved to be impossible. On top of the moves by Louisville and Rutgers, the seven non-FBS members are breaking away from the league to create a basketball-focused conference.

Aresco said the Big East is in the preliminary stages of working its way through that breakup, which will involve splitting up millions in NCAA tournament revenue and exit fees, and what to do with the name Big East.

``It's been very amicable,'' Aresco said of talks with the so-called Catholic 7. ``That process will begin shortly.''

The Big East was aware over the past month that Boise State was having second thoughts, Aresco said. He hopes that once San Diego State makes a decision, the realignment wheel will finally stop spinning and the Big East can find a television partner.

``This realignment thing has been a constant issue,'' Aresco said. ``We think things are clarified. We have some clarity.''

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Red Penguins: The story you've never heard about the Penguins' partnership with Russia's Red Army hockey team

Red Penguins: The story you've never heard about the Penguins' partnership with Russia's Red Army hockey team

It may be the greatest hockey story you've never heard of and it's almost too crazy to believe.

The upcoming Universal documentary Red Penguins tells the story of how the Pittsburgh Penguins developed a partnership with a Russian hockey team. But it wasn't just any hockey team, it was CSKA Moscow, the government-run Red Army hockey team, the most storied hockey team in Russia. They had no idea what they were in for.

Barely three minutes into the movie produced by Gabe Polsky - whose 2014 documentary "Red Army" covered the four decades of dominance by the Russian national hockey team from the 1950s to the 1990s - and you are quickly caught up in a wild ride with Howard Baldwin and Tom Ruta, Pittsburgh's owners at the time, talking about how crazy the idea of getting involved with CSKA really was.

It's never really clear who had the idea and who approached them to form the partnership so you are left wondering why exactly the organization decided to take this gamble. Weirder still: The tangential involvement of celebrity investors like actor Michael J. Fox. 

Even if the movie initially feels rushed to start, however, you soon find out why: Because the real story is what happens when ownership sends eccentric lawyer Steven Warshaw to Russia to manage business there. That's when things get truly crazy.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a hockey team that never had to wonder where its resources would come from suddenly had to think about how to make money. Meanwhile, the American investors had no idea what they were stepping into. The Iron Curtain may have fallen, but what Russia was really like behind it was still largely a mystery to everyone. 

"I expected that the country would be somewhat functioning," Warshaw said. "It turned out I was wrong."

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A strip club in the arena, strippers on the ice, the Russian mob, bears, stolen money and even an alleged relationship with Disney all followed. Russia was a country in which there were few rules in the post-Cold War era and Warshaw and the Penguins found this out very quickly.

As the team grew in popularity, so did the interest of the Russian mob. Interestingly enough, the ownership group always expected their Russian counterparts to steal from them, but this only became a problem when they began stealing too much.

A plea for help from the Russian Army to combat the influence of the mob led to this telling quote from a Russian general: "I never had any problems with the criminals. If they paid on time then the arrangement worked.”

It wasn't until people involved with the team began to die that the ownership group realized they needed to end their partnership and get Warshaw out.

It's a story too crazy to be fiction and you'll have to see it to believe it.

Red Penguins will be available to stream via iTunes, Amazon and on demand on cable systems across the country on Aug. 4.

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Braves pitcher Mike Soroka out for season with torn right Achilles

Braves pitcher Mike Soroka out for season with torn right Achilles

Atlanta Braves ace Mike Soroka is out for the season after tearing his right Achilles tendon Monday night against the New York Mets.

Soroka was hurt in the third inning after delivering a pitch to J.D. Davis, who grounded the ball toward first baseman Freddie Freeman.

Soroka broke toward first to cover the bag, only to go down on his first step off the mound. The right-hander knew right away it was a devastating injury, one that ensures he won't be back on the mound until 2021.

"It's a freak thing that happened," manager Brian Snitker said, delivering the grim news after the Braves lost 7-2 to the Mets. "I'm sorry it did."

Soroka yelled in obvious pain and tried to walk gingerly for a couple of steps before dropping to his knees. He couldn't put any weight on the leg as he was helped toward the clubhouse with the assistance of Snitker and a trainer.

It was a major blow to the two-time defending NL East champion Braves, who had won five straight despite struggling to put together an effective rotation.

"Somebody else is going to get an opportunity," Snitker said. "Things like that happen. These guys will regroup. Somebody is going to get an opportunity to do something really good. Our young guys are going to continue to get better. We're going to be fine."

Soroka, who turns 23 on Tuesday, made his first opening day start last month after going 13-4 with a dazzling 2.68 ERA in 2019 to finish second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting and sixth for the Cy Young Award.

Soroka was making his third start of the season. He came in having allowed just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings but struggled against the Mets, giving up three hits and four walks. He was charged with four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings, the second-shortest outing of his career.

Unfortunately for Soroka, he won't get a chance to make up for it this season.

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