Sports Briefs

College Football

NEW YORK — This much is certain at Florida: Any doubts about Urban Meyer's future with the Gators didn't hurt their recruiting one bit this year.

Florida landed the top-rated recruiting class in the country Wednesday, the first and by far the busiest day of the national letter of intent signing period for high school football players.

"The key to recruiting is a lot like the keys to making a great sale," said Meyer, who has won two national championships in five seasons with the Gators. "The first one is having a great product and we obviously have that here at the University of Florida."

As usual, national signing day was mostly about the rich getting richer.

While Florida took the mythical recruiting national championship — all the notable ranking services had the Gators on top — Alabama and Texas, the teams that played for the BCS title last month, also loaded up for future runs.

Southern California and Tennessee withstood late coaching changes to land highly regarded classes. And Auburn showed it's not about to concede the state of Alabama to Nick Saban and the Tide.

But the big winner was Florida, a program that seemed on the verge of disarray six weeks ago.

PORTLAND — New Portland State coach Nigel Burton introduced his first recruiting class Wednesday after taking over the Vikings from Jerry Glanville.

Glanville resigned in November after three losing seasons.

Burton, who comes to the Vikings after serving as defensive coordinator at Nevada for two seasons, got letters of intent from 19 players.

The class includes two tight ends, 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior college transfer Kyle McMillin and 6-foot-5, 275-pound local talent Taylor Meyrick.

Meyrick also plays on Oregon City High School's basketball team. Both of his parents went to Portland State.


Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers have agreed to an $80 million, five-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday night because the deal had not been announced. The person said the contract could be completed as soon as Thursday.

Verlander won a career-high 19 games with a career-best 3.45 ERA last season. He is 65-43 with a 3.92 ERA in four full seasons with the Tigers.

The sides agreed to bypass salary arbitration. When figures were exchanged last month, Verlander asked for $9.5 million for next season and the team offered $6.9 million.

Verlander ended up securing a more lucrative contract than Felix Hernandez. The Seattle Mariners gave their ace a $78 million, five-year deal. Verlander turns 27 this month and Hernandez, who is 58-41 with a 3.45 ERA, will be 24 in April.

Verlander made $3,675,000 last season.

Detroit's decision to keep Verlander with a long-term deal backs up the franchise's claim that it is still committed to spending money to stay competitive.

SEATTLE — Casey Kotchman and the Mariners agreed Wednesday to a one-year contract worth $3,517,500, settling Seattle's last salary arbitration case this year.

The Mariners announced the deal for the 26-year-old first baseman less than a month after they acquired him from Boston for outfielder Bill Hall.

The contract's value is exactly at the midpoint between the sides' proposals in arbitration.

Kotchman epitomizes second-year general manager Jack Zduriencik's push to rebuild the Mariners primarily with defense and pitching. Kotchman is a defensive standout who is expected to replace power hitter Russell Branyan in the Mariners' lineup.

He has not made an error in his last 185 games and 1,584 chances. He did not make an error in 114 games at first base for Atlanta and Boston in 2009, becoming the third first baseman in major league history with a minimum of 108 games at the position in a season to record a perfect fielding percentage.

LOS ANGELES — The "Ramirez Provision" is no more.

The Los Angeles Dodgers — and all other major league teams — cannot mandate that a player donate to club charities as part of his contract, the commissioner's office and players' union have agreed.

Michael Weiner, the executive director of the players' union, said the agreement does not restrict players from making donations but ensures the choice is theirs.

"The goal here never has been to interfere with players making charitable contributions, which guys have a long history of doing," Weiner said Wednesday.

As part of the $45-million contract he signed last March, Manny Ramirez agreed to donate $1 million to the Dodgers' charitable foundation. Owner Frank McCourt said he would implement the "Ramirez Provision," asking players to make a donation at an amount of their choosing as part of all future Dodgers contracts.


DUBAI, United Arab — Tom Watson says Tiger Woods needs to "show some humility to the public" when he returns to golf after sorting out his personal life.

Watson also said Wednesday that Woods should clean up his on-course behavior in order to be considered among the true greats of the game.

Woods is on an indefinite break since his car crash Nov. 27 that fueled sordid tales of extramarital affairs.

"I'll let the cat out of the bag," Watson said ahead of the Dubai Desert Classic. "Tiger has to take ownership of what he has done. He must get his personal life in order. I think that's what he's trying to do. And when he comes back, he has to show some humility to the public.

"I would come out and I would do an interview with somebody and say, 'You know what? I screwed up. And I admit it. I am going to try to change. I am trying to change. I want my wife and family back.'"

The 60-year-old Watson, one of golf's elder statesmen, also criticized Woods — a 14-time major winner — for bad language and other on-course behavior.

Youth Football

MIAMI — With the issue of brain injuries in the NFL gaining attention, an advocacy group said it would push for legislation in all 50 states aimed at reducing sports-related concussions in young athletes.

The Zackery Lystedt Brain Project also will promote greater public awareness of head injuries, and will work to advance research efforts that focus on concussions.

"I think passing the legislation is going to be easy part," said Patrick Donohue, of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, an organization concerned about brain injuries among children, which launched the project. "The other pieces of this, public awareness and furthering the research, is probably going to be the most difficult component."

Donohue's foundation started the sport-specific project in Miami on Wednesday, days before the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints meet for the Super Bowl in South Florida.

Named for a teenager who suffered a brain injury after he returned to a middle school football game in 2006 following a concussion, the Zackery Lystedt Brain Project is pushing for measures modeled after a Washington state law, which requires athletes under the age of 18 who are suspected of having a concussion to get written consent from a licensed medical provider before returning to play.


Floyd Mayweather Jr. finalized a deal Wednesday to fight Sugar Shane Mosley on May 1 in a welterweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

Mayweather (40-0, 25 KOs) agreed to the 12-round bout last week, but hadn't formally signed the contract for the former pound-for-pound champion's second fight back from a brief retirement.

"This one is definitely for the fans, as I wasn't going to waste anyone's time with a meaningless tuneup bout and asked to fight Shane immediately," Mayweather said. "I have said ever since I came back to the sport that I only wanted to fight the best. I think Shane is one of the best, but come May 1, he still won't be great enough to beat me."

Although the fight is an intriguing matchup between two veteran welterweights who have been circling each other for a decade, the dangerous Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs) still isn't Mayweather's first choice.

— The Associated Press

—Mayweather agreed to the bout only after several weeks of negotiations with Manny Pacquiao failed to produce an agreement on what's likely to be the richest fight in boxing history, if it ever occurs. Pacquiao balked at Mayweather's stringent drug-testing demands, and instead will fight welterweight Joshua Clottey on March 13 at Cowboys Stadium.

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