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Aresco: Commissioners support adding marquee bowl

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Aresco: Commissioners support adding marquee bowl

NEW YORK (AP) Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco says support for adding a bowl game to college football's new postseason system has not waned.

Earlier this week, ESPN.com reported the chances of a seventh game being added to the playoff rotation that starts in 2014 had decreased because of various concerns, ranging from the value of the game's television rights to where it will be played.

The original playoff plan had the national semifinals rotating among six major bowl games. Last month, the conference commissioners discussed expanding to the pool to seven games to give better access to the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA , Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference.

``None of us had heard anything about the game being in any jeopardy,'' Aresco said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The proposed plan for a seventh game calls for the top-rated champion from the Big East and the other four conferences to play either a Pac-12 or a Big 12 team in years when that game is not hosting a semifinal.

Yet tepid interest in the game from possible television partners is a potential stumbling block. How much TV rights would be for such a game is uncertain. Speculation has been anywhere from $20 million per year to about $55 million.

``We're trying to put the game together,'' Aresco said. ``We think there will be significant interest from TV entities, but it's premature. We haven't gone that far.''

Aresco said the goal is to find a permanent home for the game. A site has not been determined but Aresco is confident a good one can be found.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said during a radio interview Thursday on the ``Tim Brando Show'' that a decision on adding a seventh game could be six to nine months away.

Aresco spearheaded the push for a seventh game because the Big East stands to benefit most from its addition. The Big East has had an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series since it was implemented in 1998. Now that the BCS is going away and the conference is losing some major players, the rebuilt Big East is trying to regain its standing in college football's hierarchy.

What used to be considered the Big Six conferences in major college football - the Big East, along with the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Pac-12, Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference - is now often being referred to as the Big Five.

Aresco and the Big East have been aggressively battling that perception.

``We know we're a very strong conference and I don't want a narrative like that to take hold,'' he said. ``Because it's just wrong.''

He pointed out that one prominent sports website's most recent conference rankings placed the Big East fifth.

``And I won't mention who we are ahead of,'' he said.

It was the ACC, which has an agreement to send its champion or another highly rated team to the Orange Bowl in the new postseason system.

Both the Big East and ACC have two teams ranked in the latest AP Top 25, though future Big East member Boise State is also in the rankings. The Big East's record against nonconference opponents from the FBS is 14-10 this season. The ACC's is 13-14.

But the Big East is in transition, and it is unclear how its latest incarnation will play out.

Pitt and Syracuse are leaving for the ACC. Boise State and San Diego State will become football only members in the Big East next season. Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU will join in all sports.

The new Big East will span all four time zones, and the quality of its football members could be at the very least on par with what it has been in recent years, before West Virginia left for ther Big 12.

Its long-term viability, however, is uncertain. The Big East has been negotiating with ESPN on a new TV deal, but if a deal is not struck by the end of the month, the conference will be free to negotiate with other networks.

``We've had several networks express interest in Big East product,'' Aresco said. ``I can't speculate on what will happen in the next week or so.''

The conference is hoping to land a long-term contract that will at least be in the ballpark of the multibillion dollar deals the other power conferences have signed in recent years. The ACC's new deal with the ESPN will allow the conference to pay its members about $17 million per year.

Aresco said the Big East also hopes to present a football divisional alignment to its members for approval next month. ``We're leaning, more or less, toward an east-west structure,'' he said. ``It doesn't necessarily have to be entirely east-west. We clearly want the western teams to be playing together.''

Notre Dame, which competes in the Big East for everything but football and hockey, is also set to join the ACC. The school would like to move next year, but Big East bylaws require it wait until 2015.

Aresco and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbick have had preliminary discussion about a deal to let the Fighting Irish go early.

Aresco said the Big East would be interested in guaranteeing future football games for its members against Notre Dame if the Irish have room on their future schedules with five slots already taken by ACC schools.

``That's something we would certainly consider,'' Aresco said. ``If Jack wanted to explore it we would certainly explore it. I don't know how much flexibility they have.''

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap

US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

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US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

REIMS, France -- Megan Rapinoe converted a pair of penalty kicks and the United States set up a much-anticipated quarterfinal meeting with host France at the Women's World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Spain on Monday.

Rapinoe's first came in the seventh minute to the cheers of the U.S. supporters melting in temperatures that reached nearly 90 degrees at the Stade Auguste-Delaune. They were quieted a short time later when Jennifer Hermoso tied it up for Spain with the first goal the Americans had allowed in France.

Video review was used to confirm a foul on Rose Lavelle that gave the pink-haired captain the game-winner in the 75th minute, spoiling Spain's spirited effort in its first knockout-round appearance at a World Cup.

"That’s World Cup-level grit right there," Rapinoe said on the Fox Sports broadcast. "You can’t replicate it. You can’t teach it. We told each other during the game we needed to go up a level. They (the matches) only get harder and more intense from here. Everybody’s playing for their lives."

The defending champions head to Paris to face France on Friday night. The French defeated Brazil 2-1 in extra time Sunday night, with Amandine Henry scoring the game-winner in the 107th minute.

Italy wins bid to host 2026 Winter Olympics

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Italy wins bid to host 2026 Winter Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Italy will host the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, taking the Winter Games to the Alpine country for the second time in 20 years.

International Olympic Committee members voted for the long-favored Milan-Cortina bid over Stockholm-Are from Sweden that also included a bobsled track in Latvia.

Milan-Cortina's jubilant delegation broke into chants of "Italia! Italia!" when the result was announced.

Italy last hosted in Turin in 2006, and the Alpine ski resort Cortina previously hosted the Winter Games in 1956.

Sweden's spirited late campaign effort was in vain, including the mayor of Stockholm appealing to voters from the stage by singing a lyric from Abba song `Dancing Queen'.

A sign of simmering Swedish frustration came minutes later when IOC board member Gunilla Lindberg pushed the limit of Olympic diplomacy ending her team's 30-minute presentation.

Lindberg challenged her colleagues to reward a new kind of creative, cost-effective bid the IOC has said it wanted -- "Or is it just talk?"

Instead, IOC members picked Italy despite a debt-hit economy which faces increasing European Union scrutiny.

"We submit with full confidence to your judgment," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told voters.

Both candidates would likely have failed to get this far in previous Olympic bidding contests.

The IOC has relaxed previously strict rules that demanded financial guarantees and government support earlier in the process.

It was an attempt to revive Winter Games bidding with just two candidates on the ballot paper for the second straight time, since Russia spent $51 billion on venues and infrastructure for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Now, the IOC seeks to avoid costly new venues -- and potential white elephants -- while encouraging regions and multi-nation bids to share the load. Hence, Sweden teamed with Latvia, across the Baltic Sea, rather than build its ice sliding sports venue.

"We have budget problems in Italy but I think that this is something that everyone has," Italy Undersecretary of State Giancarlo Giorgetti said at an earlier news conference, citing the wealth of the Lombardy and Veneto provinces underwriting the games costs.

"They are two of the richest provinces in Europe," Giorgetti said. "They certainly have the capacity, they have the readiness, they have the finances in order to be able to support the event."

The IOC will contribute at least $925 million toward Italy's games operating costs of up to $1.7 billion. Building athlete villages in Milan and Stockholm shaped as the main capital investment and most uncertain ventures in the projects.

Last week, the IOC flagged Stockholm's village as a risk, and asked for more details of guarantees underwriting the project.

"A letter of intent is as important to us as any contract," Volvo chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said in the formal presentation, in what seemed a rebuke to the Olympic body.

The day-long meetings began with each bid in closed-door sessions with IOC members. The Swedish bid was challenged to prove its support from a Stockholm city authority coalition formed last October and a national government only five months ago.

Sweden Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he assured voters "it's in the Swedish model, it's in our DNA" to deliver a stable Winter Games.

Still, a big plus for the Italian bid -- uniting Milan, the Alpine ski resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo, and several towns in between -- was the IOC's own polling. It found support from local residents around 85% compared to 60% in Sweden.

The 2026 contest meets the IOC President Thomas Bach's long-stated wish to return to traditional heartlands for winter sports after major construction projects from 2014-2022 in Russia, South Korea, and China.

The signature Swedish feature using the ice sliding sports track in Sigulda, Latvia, that meets the IOC's demand to use established sports venues.

The IOC has praised both candidates for projecting sports budgets "on average 20% lower" than spending on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and 2022 Beijing Olympics.

During the traditionally slick and emotional pleas to be awarded the games, Stockholm mayor Anna Konig Jerlmyr reminded voters of Sweden's most famous music act.

"Abba is everywhere," she said, before singing the lyric: "You can dance, you can dance, having the time of your life."

With more gravitas, Nobel Foundation executive director Lars Heikenstein spoke of Olympic values being an inspiration. Olympic leaders have long coveted a Nobel Peace Prize for the organization.

Sweden's heir to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria, joined a 100-plus delegation at the Swisstech convention center though did not take part on stage.

Italy's bid was livened by two Olympic champions, downhill skier Sofia Goggia and snowboarder Michela Moioli, doing a dab gesture and talking of their hopes to compete on home snow in almost seven years' time.

Sweden's wait for a first Winter Games goes on.

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