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Wednesday's Sports In Brief

AP - Sports

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

CHICAGO (AP) -- In a stunning ruling that could revolutionize a college sports industry worth billions of dollars and have dramatic repercussions at schools coast to coast, a federal agency said Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University can create the nation's first union of college athletes.

The decision by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board answered the question at the heart of the debate over the unionization bid: Are football players who receive full scholarships to the Big Ten school considered employees under federal law, thereby allowing them to unionize?

Peter Sung Ohr, the NLRB regional director, said in a 24-page decision that the players ''fall squarely'' within the broad definition of employee.

JEFFERSON, La. (AP) - Hank Lauricella, the 1951 Heisman Trophy runner-up at Tennessee who went on to serve more than three decades as a Louisiana state legislator, has died. He was 83.

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PRO FOOTBALL

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The NFL will place a heavy emphasis on enforcing its player conduct rules, something Rams coach Jeff Fisher calls ''a front-of-the-book issue.''

As the league's spring meetings wrapped up with Commissioner Roger Goodell saying expansion of the playoffs next season is possible, sportsmanship - and lack thereof - was a prime topic.

In other moves, the owners approved an experiment in which extra-point kicks will be taken from the 20-yard line for two weeks in the preseason. They also adopted proposals to extend the length of the goalposts 5 feet to 35 feet to better determine if kicks are good, to no longer stop the clock on sacks and to allow video reviews on plays with a recovery of a loose ball on the field even though the play had been whistled dead.

The owners tabled proposals to raise the number of active players for games not played on a Sunday or Monday, except for opening week, from 46 to 49 and to raise the practice squad maximum from eight to 10 players.

CHICAGO - The Chicago Bears replaced one accomplished veteran pass rusher with another when they agreed to terms with Jared Allen on a four-year contract.

A person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press that Allen will get $15.5 million guaranteed on a deal that could be worth as much as $32 million. The person requested anonymity because the terms have not been announced.

The 31-year-old Allen spent the previous six years with the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings. He will take over for Julius Peppers, who signed with Green Bay

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Doctors treating Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly said he will not immediately undergo surgery for a recurrence of cancer.

Instead, the longtime Buffalo Bills star will likely first be treated with chemotherapy and radiation, according to a statement from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Steve Masiello's promising coaching career is in limbo after his deal with South Florida fell apart because he doesn't have a college diploma.

Manhattan College said that it had placed him on leave while Masiello is ''reviewing his degree status.''

South Florida confirmed that the school had an agreement in principle to lure Masiello away from Manhattan, but that the contract was contingent on ''a verification of credentials.''

USF requires its basketball coach to have at least a bachelor's degree. The 39-year-old Masiello did not graduate after attending Kentucky, where he played for Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith from 1996-2000.

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BASEBALL

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Clayton Kershaw will miss his scheduled start for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Diego Padres this weekend because of an inflamed muscle in his back.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner had an MRI that showed the swollen muscle in his left upper back. Kershaw had complained of tightness while throwing at a workout on Tuesday.

The team said Kershaw's next start will be decided by his progress while throwing in the next week.

NEW YORK (AP) - After deciding close calls on the field since 1876, baseball opens a high-tech control room this weekend where the fates of batters, pitchers, runners and fielders will be decided by umpires up to 2,600 miles away in the building where the Oreo cookie was invented.

Starting with the Los Angeles Dodgers' game at the San Diego Padres on Sunday night, the U.S. opener of the 2014 season, players, managers and fans will turn their attention to the ROC - the Replay Operations Center.

NEW YORK (AP) - Baseball players and management hope to reach a new drug agreement this week that would increase initial penalties for muscle-building steroids and allow a decrease of suspensions for some positive tests caused by unintentional use, people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

For future suspensions, the deal also would eliminate the loophole allowing Alex Rodriguez to earn almost $3 million during his season-long ban, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in recent days because talks are ongoing.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Pirates plan on keeping promising left fielder Starling Marte playing alongside National League MVP Andrew McCutchen for years to come.

A person with knowledge of the agreement said the Pirates and Marte agreed to a six-year contract that will keep the 25-year-old in Pittsburgh for remainder of the decade. The person requested anonymity because the deal had not been publicly announced.

CBSSports.com reported the new contract has a total value of $31 million.

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) - The Texas Rangers say ace Yu Darvish has no structural damage in his stiff neck but will likely begin the season on the disabled list.

Darvish was examined by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas. The right-hander will start a throwing program this weekend and won't need any injections.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels expects Darvish will be put on the 15-day DL. The Rangers open Monday at home against Philadelphia.

NEW YORK (AP) - Forbes ranks the New York Yankees as baseball's most valuable team for the 17th straight year and lists the Tampa Bay Rays with the lowest valuation.

Forbes estimates the Yankees are worth $2.5 billion, up 9 percent from last year. The Dodgers are next at $2 billion, a 24 percent hike and matching their actual sale price in 2012.

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GOLF

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club, exclusively for men since it was founded 260 years ago at St. Andrews, will vote in September on whether women can join the club.

''It's an exciting day for the club,'' R&A club secretary Peter Dawson said.

A statement from club said that all committees were ''strongly in favor of the rule change'' and asked members to go along.

The move was hailed by British sports minister Helen Grant, who was hopeful a favorable vote would encourage other single-sex golf clubs to follow suit.

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AUTO RACING

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A small piece of metal in his eye, and not a sinus infection, caused Denny Hamlin to miss last week's race at California.

Hamlin was not medically cleared to race last Sunday by doctors in the infield care center at Auto Club Speedway. He had visited the care center on Saturday and Sunday complaining of an irritation to his eye, and it was determined at the track that it was related to a recent sinus infection Hamlin had suffered.

Hamlin was referred to a local hospital for further evaluation, and once there, ''a small piece of metal was found to be in Hamlin's eye,'' Joe Gibbs Racing said in a statement.

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TENNIS

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) - Novak Djokovic benefited from an erroneous call in the pivotal game to beat Andy Murray 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Sony Open.

Roger Federer was up a service break twice in the second set but lost to No. 20-seeded Kei Nishikori 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. Nishikori will play Djokovic on Friday.

Li Na became the first Chinese woman to reach the Key Biscayne semifinals when she beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 7-5.

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