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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: James Shields routed, booed off field in White Sox debut

06.09.16 at 8:08 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
Stanley Cup Final: Sharks at Penguins, 8 p.m. (NBC)
MLB: Astros at Rangers, 2 p.m. (MLB Network)
Soccer: Copa America, Uruguay vs. Venezuela, 7:30 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Copa America, Mexico vs. Jamaica, 10 p.m. (FS1)
Track and field: NCAA outdoor championships, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Red Sox fans who were disappointed their team did not acquire veteran pitcher James Shields have to be feeling a little better following the right-hander’s debut with the White Sox on Wednesday night.

Shields, acquired from the Padres earlier in the week, was hit hard early and often and booed by Chicago fans in an 11-4 loss to the visiting Nationals.

The boos started after Shields walked the second batter of the game en route to a four-run first inning, intensified after each of the three home runs he allowed — three in four batters — and reached a crescendo when he was yanked after allowing a single to the leadoff batter in the third inning. Struggling with his fastball command, Shields was charged with seven runs on eight hits.

“You never want to come into a new team and expect to do that,” Shields said afterward, adding: “I didn’t give them a chance.”

Shields, who has struggled since signing a four-year, $75 million contract with the Padres before last season, failed to get out of the third inning in his final start with the Padres as well. His performance led to the White Sox losing for the 20th time in 26 games and falling under .500 for the first time this season.

“Maybe he came in here pressing to try to impress,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We know he’s going to pitch better, but the first inning probably got to him somewhat.”

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Maria Sharapova suspended 2 years for use of meldonium, will appeal ban

06.08.16 at 12:45 pm ET
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Maria Sharapova plans to fight her two-year ban. (Susan Mullane/USA Today Sports)

Maria Sharapova plans to fight her two-year ban. (Susan Mullane/USA Today Sports)

Tennis star Maria Sharapova has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation after testing positive for meldonium at this year’s Australian Open.

The suspension came from an independent three-person panel selected by the ITF, which ruled that Sharapova did not intend to cheat by using the recently banned meldonium, yet she carried “sole responsibility” for testing positive in January.

Sharapova, 29, immediately posted on her Facebook page to say that she will be appealing the ban.

“While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” Sharapova wrote.

The required length of suspension for an intentional violation is four years, but the ITF tribunal rejected a full suspension.

“The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong,” Sharapova continued, “yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years.”

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Read More: International Tennis Federation, Maria Sharapova, meldonium,

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Orioles’ Manny Machado ready to ‘deal with the consequences’ after starting brawl vs. Royals

06.08.16 at 8:18 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Giants, 10:15 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Blue Jays at Tigers, 1 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Angels at Yankees, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
NBA Finals: Warriors at Cavaliers, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Soccer: Copa America, Brazil vs. Haiti, 7:30 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Copa America, Ecuador vs. Peru, 10 p.m. (FS2)
College softball: World Series championship, Oklahoma vs. Auburn, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
College track and field: NCAA outdoor championships, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

— The Orioles, battling the Red Sox for first place in the American League East, likely will be without one of their best players soon, as Manny Machado charged the mound and punched Royals starter Yordano Ventura during Baltimore’s 9-1 victory Tuesday night.

Ventura twice threw inside during Machado’s at-bat in the second inning, and the players exchanged words. In the fifth, Machado took a 99 mph fastball square in the back, and he immediately went out to get revenge. Machado landed a right to Ventura’s face before the pitcher tackled him. The benches emptied and order was restored, with Machado being restrained by teammate Chris Tillman.

“I don’t regret anything,” Machado said. “When somebody’s throwing 99 at you, it’s going to hurt. You can ruin someone’s career. You don’t think in that situation. You just react to it.”

Ventura claimed the wayward pitch was accidental and said Machado did not help his reputation with his reaction.

“Everybody knows what kind of player he is,” Ventura said through an interpreter. “One just got away and he came at me, and I have to defend myself at that point.”

Ventura said he does not believe there should be suspensions, but Machado seemed resigned to his fate.

“You got to deal with the consequences once you cross that line,” the young Orioles star said.

— Former NBA center Sean Rooks, who was an assistant coach for the 76ers until last month, died Tuesday at the age of 46 after apparently collapsing while having dinner at a Philadelphia restaurant.

“It is with a profound deal of sadness that we mourn the sudden loss of a beloved son, father and friend, Sean Rooks. Words simply cannot express the heartbreak and shock our entire organization is feeling over this loss,” 76ers co-managing owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer said in a statement from the team.

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Read More: Kimbo Slice, Manny Machado, Sean Rooks, Yordano Ventura

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: MMA star Kimbo Slice dies at 42

06.07.16 at 8:23 am ET
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Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

TUESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Giants, 10:15 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Mets at Pirates, 4:05 p.m. (ESPN2)
MLB: Indians at Mariners, 10 p.m. (MLB Network)
College softball: World Series championship, Oklahoma vs. Auburn, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Soccer: Copa America, United States vs. Costa Rica, 8 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Copa America, Colombia vs. Paraguay, 10:30 p.m. (FS1)
WNBA: Mercury at Lynx, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)
WNBA: Liberty at Sparks, 10 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

Kimbo Slice returned to MMA last year after a five-year absence. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Kimbo Slice returned to MMA last year after a five-year absence. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

— The mixed martial arts world was in shock Monday when Kimbo Slice, one of the most recognizable faces in the sport, died at the age of 42.

According to reports out of Florida, Slice was taken to a hospital near his home in Coral Springs with what authorities described as a “medical issue.” There was a report that he died of heart failure, but no official cause of death was released. Police said no foul play is suspected.

Slice returned to the octagon in February after a five-year absence and beat Dada 5000, aka Dhafir Harris, with a third-round knockout, but the result was overturned after Slice tested positive for steroids. He was scheduled to fight James Thompson next month in London as part of Bellator 158.

“We are all shocked and saddened by the devastating and untimely loss of Kimbo Slice,” Belabor CEO Scott Coker said. “One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport. Outside of the cage he was a friendly, gentle giant and a devoted family man. His loss leaves us all with extremely heavy hearts.”

Slice, whose real name was Kevin Ferguson, was born in the Bahamas and grew up in the Miami area. He was a bouncer and bodyguard when he became famous in the early 2000s via online videos of his success in unsanctioned street fights. He went on to compete in professional MMA, going 5-2 and becoming a headliner for his intimidating appearance and powerful punching ability.

During his break from MMA, he embarked on a boxing career, going 7-0 with six knockouts from 2011-13.

“He carried himself as a true professional during his time in our organization,” the UFC said in a statement. “While he will never be forgotten for his fighting style and transcendent image, Slice will also be remembered for his warm personality and commitment to his family and friends.”

— While most of the Denver media was focused on Aqib Talib, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg, there was another notable absence from the Super Bowl champions’ visit to the White House on Monday.

Brock Osweiler, now a member of the Texans, explained his decision to skip Monday’s festivities was based on his new team’s practice schedule.

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Read More: Brock Osweiler, Kimbo Slice,

Monday’s Morning Mashup: Dodgers DFA ‘frustrated’ OF Carl Crawford with $35M remaining on contract

06.06.16 at 8:18 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
Stanley Cup Final: Penguins at Sharks, 8 p.m. (NBC)
MLB: Cubs at Phillies, 7:05 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Copa America, Panama vs. Bolivia, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Copa America, Argentina vs. Chile, 10 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford

— Carl Crawford’s fall from grace — which began in 2011 after he signed an enormous free agent contract with the Red Sox — hit bottom with a thud Sunday, as the outfielder was designated for assignment by the Dodgers.

The 34-year-old, hitting .185 with no home runs and six RBIs in 30 games this season, has $35 million remaining on his contract over the next two seasons.

Crawford was a four-time All-Star with the Rays who won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2010, but after he joined the Red Sox his performance tanked immediately and dramatically and he struggled to stay healthy. He was shipped to the Dodgers during the 2012 season and his injury woes continued, as he made trips to the disabled list every season in Los Angeles. He had a brief resurgence in 2013, hitting .320 with four home runs in 10 postseason games as the Dodgers reached the National League Championship Series.

He was back on the disabled list this April with lower back tightness.

“He’s frustrated because his body is not letting him produce the way he used to, but Father Time catches up with everyone,” manager Dave Roberts said.

With some promising young players ready for playing time, the Dodgers cut ties with Crawford and called up catcher/infielder Austin Barnes, who was hitting .306 in the minors.

“[Crawford has] worked really hard and played really hard, and ultimately that takes a toll on your body,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who was general manager of the Rays during most of Crawford’s time in Tampa. “We just felt we had gotten to a point where this was what made the most sense.”

Added Friedman: “It’s never as easy thing to do, but not surprisingly, he was a tremendous pro about it. It’s definitely not from a lack of work ethic. Carl was one of the most dynamic players in baseball. Just an elite athlete, really good bat-to-ball skills, tremendous defender.”

— Ryan Howard has become a target for many Phillies fans, as the former MVP is batting just .151 in 49 games this season. On Saturday, he was the target of a fan who threw a beer bottle as he walked toward the dugout after making the final out in a 6-3 loss to the Brewers.

The bottle landed hear Howard’s feet, and he informed a security guard. The team said it was investigating.

“I turned around, and it was down near my feet,” Howard said (via Philly.com). “I don’t play that. To me, that’s crossing the line. It becomes a security issue. It’s not necessary. That stuff infuriates me.”

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Read More: Carl Crawford, ryan howard,

‘The Greatest of All Time’ Muhammad Ali dies at 74

06.04.16 at 9:16 am ET
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One of the most influential athletes of all time, boxer Muhammad Ali, passed away Friday night at the age of 74. Ali had been battling Parkinson’s disease for the past 32 years.

For a complete retrospective of Ali’s life and career, click here.

The funeral for Ali will be held in his hometown of Louisville, KY.

Thinking Out Loud: Bryant, URI headline 5 New England baseball teams in NCAAs

06.03.16 at 5:50 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Jim Foster and Charlie Hickey?

— Record-setting? Better believe it. Bryant baseball is traveling where no Bulldog has barked before, as a No. 2 seed at the NCAA regional in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. The Northeast Conference champs won a nation-leading 47 games during the regular season and are playing in their third regional tournament over the past four years.

— Not for nuthin’, but did I mention best winning percentage and best run-differential (beating opponents by about five runs per game) in the country, too? Didn’t think so. Not bad for a team that scooped baseballs out of 6-foot snow drifts while several opponents prepped for the season in the relative warmth south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

— The star of this “Can You Top That?” act just might be URI’s baseball team, as the Rams steamrolled through the Atlantic-10 tournament by a combined 38-7 over three games. The Rams are in their second-ever NCAA appearance (and first since 2005), playing as the No. 4 seed at the regional in Columbia, South Carolina.

— It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Two plane tickets to South Carolina to watch the Rams make history? $677. Two plane tickets to Virginia to see the Bulldogs try to beat a national title contender? $746. The chance to watch two baseball teams from Rhode Island in the NCAA Tournament in the same year? It’s never happened before. Priceless.

— There’s a true Rhode Island flavor sprinkled throughout the NCAA field this year, beyond just Bryant and URI. Fairfield features Brendan Tracy from Providence’s LaSalle Academy, with the Stags playing at Texas Tech. UConn, winner of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, plays at Georgia Tech with a former Hendricken Hawk, John Toppa, second on the Huskies in hitting (.314).

— Would now be a good time to mention I used to coach Tracy in the Rumford (Rhode Island) Little League? Just sayin’.

— Lest we forget, another former Hendricken star — Reed Gamache — leads America East champ Binghamton at Texas A&M this weekend. The senior second baseman hit .367 for the Bearcats and was a candidate for Player of the Year in America East, hitting just under .400 in conference play.

— Oh. Right. Boston College baseball made it, too, as an at-large selection from the ACC. That’s five New England teams among the field of 64 in the NCAA Tournament — another first — on the road to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series.

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: Blue Jays sluggers Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion reportedly ‘envision’ signing with Red Sox in offseason

06.03.16 at 8:38 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Blue Jays at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Diamondbacks at Cubs, 2 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Giants at Cardinals, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)
Soccer: Copa America, United States vs. Colombia, 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
Tennis: French Open, 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel), 11 a.m. (NBC)

AROUND THE WEB:

Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista

— If David Ortiz sticks with his plan to retire after this season — despite his incredible first third of the season — the Red Sox will have big shoes to fill offensively. One national baseball writer suggests the Sox will have a couple of big-name options after the season, and they’ll be in Boston this weekend when the Blue Jays visit for a three-game series.

Veteran baseball writer Jon Heyman, writing for the FanRag Sports Network, wrote Thursday: Both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion envision the Red Sox as a possible winter landing spot, provided David Ortiz really does go through with his plan to retire. It’s well known that Bautista has sought $150 million for five years, at least, as first reported by TSN’s Rick Westhead. Encarnacion will seek at least four years as a free agent. Toronto offered two.

Bautista, 35, is hitting .231/.361/.472 with 11 home runs, 37 RBIs and a league-leading 40 walks in 54 games. The six-time All-Star was eighth in AL MVP voting last season when he slugged 40 home runs with 114 RBIs and a league-high 110 walks.

Earlier this week he told Sports Illustrated he loves Toronto, insisting, “I’d be stupid to leave,” but he also said he would not take a hometown discount when he becomes a free agent in the offseason.

“I will explore every single option, whether it happens or not with the new regime, to continue to try to stay here,” Bautista said. “That being said, I think teams utilize that a lot against players, [seeking] a discount or bargain price, and I think that’s extremely unfair, especially to have your biggest contributors on the field and try to take advantage of the fact that they like it there and negotiate a tougher deal.”

Encarnacion, 33, is hitting .245/.316/.448 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 55 games. A two-time All-Star, he was 12th in AL MVP balloting last year after hitting 39 home runs with 111 RBIs.

Encarnación apparently has Ortiz’s blessing, as Big Papi said in April that the first baseman/DH would be “a perfect replacement.”

Ortiz, like Bautista and Encarnacion a native of the Dominican Republic, is having a historic season at age 40, hitting .335/.415/.730 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs. He leads the league in RBIs and slugging percentage as well as doubles (23), total bases (135), OPS (1.145) and intentional walks (6).

— Ousted Baylor football coach Art Briles, speaking publicly for the first time since the school’s athletic department overhaul cost him his job, acknowledged making mistakes in dealing with accusations of sexual violence against his players, adding that his “heart goes out to the victims for the pain that they endured.”

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Read More: Art Briles, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Muhammad Ali

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Marlon Byrd apologizes to Indians teammates after 1-year suspension for PEDs

06.02.16 at 8:17 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Giants at Braves, noon (MLB Network)
MLB: Dodgers at Cubs, 3 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Royals at Indians, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
NBA Finals: Cavaliers at Warriors, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Soccer: Women’s exhibition, United States vs. Japan, 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Exhibition, England vs. Portugal, 3 p.m. (FS1)
Tennis: French Open, 7 a.m. (Tennis Channel), 11 a.m. (NBC)

AROUND THE WEB:

Marlon Byrd

Marlon Byrd

— Indians outfielder Marlon Byrd apologized to his teammates Wednesday after being suspended a full season for his second violation of MLB’s drug policy — a suspension that he says will end his career.

Byrd first was suspended 50 games in 2012 after he tested positive for Tamoxifen. That came after he was released by the Red Sox following a 34-game stint in Boston. This time he tested positive for Ipamorelin, a growth hormone.

The 38-year-old called manager Terry Francona on Wednesday morning and spoke to his teammates in the clubhouse later in the day.

“Marlon stood up in front of everybody and took responsibility and apologized,” Francona said. “And, basically, he told the guys that his career is over and this is not how he wanted it to end. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of criticism of the situation, but it doesn’t take away that we care about him. We care about our team, but we also care about the individuals. So, that hurts.

“It feels like we got kicked in the stomach a little bit.”

In a statement, Byrd said he did not intentionally cheat. He acknowledged taking supplements that were not approved, but he said he must have taken a tainted supplement.

“I assumed certain risks in taking them,” he said. “I alone am responsible for what I put in my body, and therefore, I have decided for forgo my right to an appeal in this matter and accept the suspension. I apologize for any harm this has caused the Cleveland Indians, Indians’ fans, my teammates, and most importantly, my family.”

Byrd was hitting .270 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 34 games.

— It might go against the Red Sox playbook, but Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler was not afraid to blast his struggling team during a radio interview Wednesday. And the team came through hours later, erupting for a 14-6 victory over the Mariners.

The morning after the Padres capped a 1-7 road trip with a 16-4 loss to the Mariners on Tuesday night, Fowler called the team’s recent performance “embarrassing” and “pathetic” during an interview with San Diego’s Mighty 1090.

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Read More: Marlon Byrd,

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez recounts battle with Zika virus

06.01.16 at 8:20 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Twins at Athletics, 3:35 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Dodgers at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. (ESPN)
Stanley Cup Final: Sharks at Penguins, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Exhibition, Belgium vs. Finland, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Tennis: French Open, 7 a.m. (Tennis Channel)

AROUND THE WEB:

Francisco Rodriguez

Francisco Rodriguez

— Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez on Tuesday recounted his battle with the Zika virus over the offseason, saying he wouldn’t blame athletes for skipping this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro due to health concerns.

Rodriguez, who spent the offseason in his home country of Venezuela, said he was laid up for two weeks with headaches, body aches and joint pain after contracting the virus, which is being blamed for causing microcephaly in South American infants.

He said the symptoms started out like those of a cold, but it soon became clear he had contracted the mosquito-transmitted disease, and tests later confirmed it.

“It wasn’t a cold, trust me,” he told ESPN.com. “It wasn’t a cold. A cold, you have a sneeze, have a headache, take a couple Tylenol and you’re done. You don’t have a cold for two weeks, you don’t have a body ache for two weeks, you don’t have headaches, throwing up, weaknesses for two weeks.”

Although the World Health Organization recently downplayed the importance of moving the Olympics out of Brazil — despite terming it a “public health emergency of international concern” — a number of athletes have publicly questioned whether it’s worth risking their health.

“I wouldn’t blame them,” Rodriguez said. “If they have plans to have kids in the future, you’ve got to think about it. You have to be aware of that as well. You have to do some homework, some research about it.”

The 34-year-old Rodriguez, who last week became the sixth pitcher in MLB history with 400 career saves, said he was still recovering when he began spring training, and it took two months before he was back to feeling like his old self. He said he understands the fear that people visiting Brazil for the Olympics could help spread the disease back to their home countries.

“It’s something people have to be careful with and worry about,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no vaccine for it. It’s not like you take a shot and [improve]. . . . It could be global.”

— Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze addressed accusations by former lineman Laremy Tunsil that cash payouts were made to players, acknowledging some issues but playing down the severity of the problem.

“I stand here owning the mistakes, but that is what they are, not some staff out trying to buy players,” Freeze said Tuesday at the Southeastern Conference’s annual meetings. “There’s not a single charge in our letter that charges a coach with [being] out buying players. While I have struggles in life that I don’t always get right, breaking the rules in recruiting is not one of them. I won’t do it.”

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Read More: Darren Collison, Francisco Rodriguez, Hugh Freeze,