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PRESS BOX: NASCAR rolls out new Chase setup

The SportsXchange

NASCAR announced a new championship format on Thursday that will put greater emphasis on winning races, expands the current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field to 16 drivers and implements a new round-by-round advancement format that ultimately will crown the champion.

"We have arrived at a format that makes every race matter even more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish line showdown race -- all of which is exactly what fans want," NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said.

The number of championship drivers in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship will decrease after every three Chase races from 16 to start in the Chase grid, 12 after Chase race No. 3, eight after Chase race No. 6 and four after Chase race No. 9. A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Chase round. In the final race of the season, four drivers will have a shot at the Cup, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the prestigious series title.

NHL

Vancouver Canucks center Mike Santorelli had shoulder surgery and will miss five to six months, the team announced Thursday.

Santorelli, 27, had worked his way onto the Canucks' top line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin after joining the team on a tryout deal during the summer. The surgery will sideline Santorelli for the remainder of the season.

In 49 games with Vancouver, Santorelli had 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points, which is fifth highest on the team despite already missing six games. He leads the team in shootout goals with two, accounting for half of the Canucks' total this season.

CFB

USC backup quarterback Max Wittek plans to transfer to another school, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Wittek, who will graduate at the end of the semester, informed new USC coach Steve Sarkisian of his decision on Wednesday. He would be able to play immediately because of an NCAA rule that allows graduates to transfer without losing a year of eligibility. The fourth-year junior has two seasons of eligibility left.

Wittek lost out to Cody Kessler last spring for the right to replace Matt Barkley. Wittek and Kessler spent the first two games splitting time before then-coach Lane Kiffin settled on Kessler as the starter. In five appearances last season, Wittek completed 14 of 26 passes for 212 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. In his USC career, he completed 50 of 95 passes for 600 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions.

--Virginia coach Mike London announced on Thursday the hiring of Mike Archer as a defensive assistant coach.

Archer boasts 37 years of coaching experience, including four years as the head coach at LSU and seven years as an assistant coach in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most recently, Archer was the defensive coordinator for six seasons at North Carolina State from 2007 to 2012. He served under current Virginia associate head coach for offense Tom O'Brien. Archer and O'Brien previously worked together at Virginia during the 1991 and 1992 seasons.

NBA

The NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the appointment of Mark Tatum to NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, the league announced Thursday.

A 15-year veteran of the league office, Tatum will assume his new role on Feb. 1 when current NBA deputy commissioner and COO Adam Silver becomes NBA commissioner, replacing retiring David Stern.

--The Detroit Pistons-Atlanta Hawks game, which was postponed Wednesday night, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. ET at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

The game was postponed because of the crippling winter storm that paralyzed the Atlanta area on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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