FBI investigating Auburn for point shaving

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FBI investigating Auburn for point shaving

From Comcast SportsNet
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Federal authorities are investigating suspended Auburn point guard Varez Ward for alleged point shaving involving in at least two games this season, Yahoo Sports reported Thursday. The report cited anonymous sources and said the FBI began an investigation in late February centering on losses to Alabama on Feb. 7 and Arkansas on Jan. 25. NCAA officials say they are "very concerned" by the allegations and have been in contact with the school and federal investigators since the issue arose last month. "The NCAA takes any allegation of point shaving very seriously because sports wagering threatens two of our core principles -- the well-being of student-athletes and the very integrity of intercollegiate sport," the NCAA said in a written statement Thursday. "As allegations of point shaving, if proven, are also potential federal crimes, the NCAA will defer action until any process with the FBI has concluded." Ward and guard Chris Denson were both suspended before a Feb. 25 game against Arkansas, but Denson returned for the next game. Denson was questioned and cleared of involvement in point shaving, the report said. "Auburn officials were made aware of a rumor regarding an allegation two weeks ago and immediately reported it to the FBI, the NCAA and the SEC," Auburn said in a statement Thursday. "Because of the nature of the allegation, Auburn is not in a position to make any further comment on the situation." The report said a player reported concerns to an assistant coach in late February. Auburn coach Tony Barbee has said only that Ward and Denson violated team rules, and he declined to address any allegations specifically after Thursday night's loss to Mississippi in the opening round of the SEC tournament. "Obviously our university released a statement which I totally support and stand behind, and obviously because of the nature of the allegations and the story, and because of the statement, I won't be able to elaborate or answer any questions or make any further comment," Barbee said. Ward didn't play in the final three games of the regular season or travel with the team to New Orleans for the Southeastern Conference tournament, where the Tigers lost their first round game, 68-54 to Mississippi on Thursday night. Denson played 32 minutes and scored 11 points against the Rebels, but declined to speak with reporters after the game. His teammates also deferred comments to their coach. Yahoo Sports reported that other Auburn players were questioned about whether Ward tried to get them to participate in the alleged point shaving. Ward, a Texas transfer, has averaged 9.0 points a game and leads the Tigers in assists. Ward scored three points and had six turnovers in the 68-50 loss to Alabama, playing 17 minutes. Vegas Insider said Alabama was favored by five points. Ward lasted only 19 seconds after coming off the bench in the 56-53 defeat against Arkansas before crumpling to the floor. Barbee later said Ward took a knee to the right leg he had injured early in his sophomore season with the Longhorns, when he ruptured his quadriceps tendon on a dunk during pregame warm-ups. Auburn still covered the 9-point spread. In between those games, Ward had his hottest streak of the season. He scored 53 points in a three-game stretch, including 24 against Mississippi State. Ward has not commented publicly since his suspension. His last Twitter post was on Feb. 24 when he tweeted, "Can't win for losing smh" (shaking my head). It was the last in a series of posts that day, the first saying that his knee was "hurting bad." Ward sat out last season under transfer rules and has two years of eligibility remaining.

Not another no-hitter, but Jake Arrieta remains Cubs ace in every way

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Not another no-hitter, but Jake Arrieta remains Cubs ace in every way

The no-hitter drama lasted about two minutes on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Milwaukee Brewers leadoff guy Jonathan Villar made contact with Jake Arrieta’s fifth pitch (95 mph) and knocked it into left field for a soft broken-bat single. The Cubs wouldn’t have any Johnny Vander Meer flashbacks.

Arrieta still continued to press his case to be a repeat Cy Young Award winner, a Game 1 starter in the playoffs and the recipient of a seven-year megadeal worth somewhere north of $200 million. But so much can happen between now and the end of the 2017 season, which means the Cubs have to maximize this two-year window to win a World Series with Arrieta.

Speaking in full paragraphs at his locker for almost 15 minutes on Tuesday, Arrieta had already answered and dismissed the questions about performance-enhancing drugs and his metamorphosis into one of the game’s best pitchers.

The muted clubhouse TVs showing ESPN and MLB Network still had the talking heads running with that chemistry debate for the next two days. To be honest, on some level it felt like Arrieta enjoyed the attention and wanted to get this off his chest.

One week after no-hitting the Cincinnati Reds, Arrieta responded with a low-stress 7-2 victory over the Brewers. This felt like a total mismatch, Arrieta vs. a rebuilding Milwaukee team that is so much closer to the beginning of a five-year rebuilding plan than the end. Ryan Braun – an admitted PED user – got the boos before his at-bats at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs only needed Arrieta (5-0, 1.00 ERA) to throw 92 pitches and pulled him for pinch-hitter Jorge Soler with a four-run lead and runners on the corners in the fifth inning, trying to play the long game.

The front office and coaching staff obviously won’t root against a no-hitter, but that 16-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds was exactly the kind of situation the Cubs outlined in spring training, how they didn’t need to ride Arrieta so hard and could keep him fresh for October after throwing almost 250 innings last year.

Arrieta – who gave up one run across five innings – saw the end of his consecutive quality-starts streak (24) and scoreless-innings run at Wrigley Field (52.2). The Cubs have still won his last 18 regular-season starts and don’t expect anything to throw their ace off his game.

Arrieta got ready for the biggest start of his life – last year’s National League wild-card game – by trolling Pittsburgh Pirates fans on Twitter and telling them the blackout atmosphere at PNC Park “doesn’t matter.”

Arrieta has become a fashion model, signing endorsement deals with SAXX underwear and the Mizzen+Main clothing line. He says he finds the PED accusations to be “flattering.”

If the Cubs keep up this best-in-baseball pace (16-5), Jake will become a legend in Chicago.

“I haven’t seen him change a bit,” said manager Joe Maddon, who last year compared Arrieta to a male Jane Fonda. “He really handles those particular moments when he’s confronted really well, because he’s very matter of fact.

“He’s very self-confident. He knows who he is. So when he answers the questions, he can answer them in a genuine manner and feel really good about himself.

“Wouldn’t we all like to be like that? It’s a pretty good way to live. And I think he’s got it down. He takes care of everything about himself. So I’m all about Jake. We all are. We support everything he does and says.”

Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

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Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

John Goossens endured a hectic March.

On top of signing a new contract with a new team in a new country and league, the Chicago Fire midfielder had to travel back to his home country, The Netherlands, to get his visa. The long transatlantic trip forced Goossens to miss the season opener.

In the next match in Orlando, Goossens started and earned an assist on a long clearance that David Accam ran onto and scored for the Fire's only goal in a 1-1 draw. He went 73 minutes in that match, still his longest appearance of the season.

In Goossens' first home match against Columbus, a hamstring injury forced him to leave the match at halftime. The injury didn't cause Goossens to miss any games, but it did hamper his fitness and limited his minutes. He was already catching up after joining the team in the middle of the preseason and then missed the opener.

“It was a tough month for me," Goossens said. "I had some traveling back home for my visa and it was hard. I had some problems. I was in Orlando, I start feeling the hamstring and then in the game against Columbus at home after 45 minutes it was better to stop because I had too much problems with it."

After the Columbus match on March 19, an off weekend due to an international window gave Goossens time to recover, but he came off the bench the next two matches. He started the match against Montreal on April 16, his first start since the injury, and played 58 minutes. Despite coming off early, Goossens said he felt fully fit.

The midfielder drew some attention after a spectacular long-distance volley goal in a preseason scrimmage against the University of Portland. He finished with two goals and an assist in five preseason matches and appeared to be a solid candidate to replace Harry Shipp as an attacking midfielder for the Fire.

However, he hasn't had the influence on matches that he would like to so far.

“I can do way better,” Goossens said. “I think it’s for the whole team. We are not happy with the results. We are working really hard for it. You just need wins to be satisfied. For me personally I have to do better and I’m working on it everyday. In my opinion if you work hard everyday the good moments will come to you so we will see.”

Goossens said he has had little trouble settling in with the team and to the league, but admitted the long travel is something that takes getting used to. In the Dutch Eredivisie, where Goossens started his career, the only long flights would be for European competition, which Goossens has never played in. In May the Fire will have road trips to Vancouver, New York Red Bulls and New England in a span of eight days and the team will stay on the road for the duration of the trip.

“I have to get used to it, the flights and things like that," Goossens said. "It’s hard, but since the day I came here you know about it and you have to prepare yourself for it. Until now I feel fine. It’s going to be a really long season. Somewhere in the summer, August or September, there will be a point that you start to get tired, but it’s mentally. It’s our job, we have to take care of it. You have to take care of yourself and your body.

"For me it feels like a big adventure. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be fine. I really enjoy and I’m having fun, that’s the most important thing.”

Clark the Cub hops on the Arrieta bandwagon with fake beard, onesie

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Clark the Cub hops on the Arrieta bandwagon with fake beard, onesie

Hey, Clark the Cub is wearing pants!

That was my first reaction when I saw the get-up for the Cubs mascot Thursday. OK, technically a onesie isn't "pants," but it's close enough.

As Arrieta took the mound for the Cubs in his first start since his second career no-hitter, Clark showed his support with the same onesie:

BEARrieta - Get it?

For reference, here's Jake's onesie from Los Angeles last August:

We're not even going to get into the beard or why a bear with fur covering its face would need - or even have - a beard.

This has been your pointless Chicago sports news of the day. Back to regularly scheduled programming.