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Former Angels employee charged in overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs

Former Angels employee charged in overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A former Los Angeles Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year's overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs, prosecutors in Texas announced Friday.

Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

Kay was the Angels' director of communications, and he served as their public relations contact on many road trips. He was placed on leave shortly after Skaggs' death, and he never returned to the team.

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In a statement issued Friday after news of Kay's court appearance, the Angels said they opened an independent investigation into Skaggs' death. The team reaffirmed its position that management didn't know Skaggs was an opioids user and didn't know any employees were providing drugs to players.

Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area on July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed, and Skaggs' death provoked an outpouring of grief across baseball.

Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner's report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named.

"Tyler Skaggs's overdose - coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career - should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet," Nealy Cox said.

If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Angels' statement said the team has "fully cooperated with law enforcement and Major League Baseball. Additionally, in order to comprehensively understand the circumstances that led to his death, we hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation.

"We learned that there was unacceptable behavior inconsistent with our code of conduct, and we took steps to address it. Our investigation also confirmed that no one in management was aware, or informed, of any employee providing opioids to any player, nor that Tyler was using opioids."

Skaggs died 12 days before his 28th birthday. The Santa Monica native was drafted by the Angels in 2009 and later traded to Arizona, where he played his first two major league seasons before returning to the Angels in another trade in late 2013.

Rusty Hardin, the Texas attorney representing Skaggs' family, issued a statement after Kay's arrest and court appearance.

"The family is deeply heartbroken to learn that Tyler would be alive today were it not for a pill containing fentanyl that was provided by the Director of Communications of the Angels," Hardin said. "We note that the Angels say they commissioned an independent investigation that concluded no one in management was aware that a team employee was supplying illegal drugs to Tyler. We encourage the Angels to make that report public.

"We are relieved that no one else who was supplied drugs by this Angels executive met the same fate as Tyler. While nothing will replace the loss of Tyler, we are very grateful to federal prosecutors for their diligent and ongoing work."

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James Madison won't play football this fall, will focus on potential spring season

James Madison won't play football this fall, will focus on potential spring season

FCS power James Madison is no longer pursuing a season this fall and instead will shift its focus to potentially playing in the spring semester, the university announced Friday.

James Madison, which has appeared in three of the last four national championship games - winning the title in 2016 - said in a statement, "With nationwide developments over the course of the week and the impending postponement of the NCAA FCS championship (playoffs), James Madison has suspended its fall football season. Department focus has shifted, in collaboration with the Colonial Athletic Association and the NCAA, to exploration of a spring competitive football season."

CAA Football suspended its season on July 17 due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, but it allowed for members such as James Madison to seek a season independent of the conference. Dukes athletic director Jeff Bourne his program would pursue that opportunity as long as health conditions were deemed safe and the NCAA staged its annual playoffs in the fall semester.

With at least eight of the 13 FCS conferences having already canceled on a fall season, the number of potential schools participating in the regular season - well below 50 percent - will not meet what the NCAA is requiring for playoffs.

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FCS playoffs are sidelined this fall, even if some teams play

FCS playoffs are sidelined this fall, even if some teams play

The annual FCS playoffs will not be held this fall even if some schools play a regular season.

The lower half of Division I college football has fallen short of the NCAA's recent mandate that playoffs would require 50 percent of eligible teams participate in a regular season,

The number fell below the threshold on Friday after both the Pioneer Football League and Big Sky Conference announced they won't have fall competition due to concerns over the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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Eight of the 13 FCS conferences aren't playing in the fall, with the CAA, Ivy, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot and SWAC having made announcements last month. The number of schools not playing is nearing 75 out of 127 programs, factoring in a few CAA schools considering independent schedules and Big South members Hampton and Monmouth opting out of playing even if their conference has a regular season. One of the CAA schools, 2019 national runner-up James Madison, reversed course and ended pursuit of a fall season on Friday.

In addition to the Big South, the Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Southern and Southland conferences are still determining their direction. The Missouri Valley is home to North Dakota State, a winner of three straight and eight of the last nine FCS championships.

The NCAA Board of Directors gave the Division I Council until Aug. 21 to determine the status of playoffs. which have been held annually since 1978. The NCAA expanded them to 24 teams in 2013.

If FCS members wind up shifting their season to the spring semester, it's possible a regular season would lead to playoffs.

Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill said, "We will now shift our attention to doing everything within our power to provide our football student-athletes and coaches with a conference schedule and a championship (playoff) opportunity in the spring. We already have begun actively engaging our fellow FCS conferences and the NCAA to join us then for what will be a unique opportunity to return to competition and compete for an FCS championship."

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