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ESPN fires announcer Ron Franklin after sexist comment

01.05.11 at 10:13 am ET
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Play-by-play announcer Ron Franklin was fired by ESPN after his sexist comment toward a sideline reporter led to his being pulled from the network’s radio broadcast of Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl.

Franklin reportedly called Jeannine Edwards “sweet baby” (original reported as “sweetcakes”) in a production meeting and then swore at her when she objected.

Franklin, 62, had called games for ESPN since 1987. He reportedly referred to another sideline reporter, Holly Rowe, as “sweetheart” during a 2005 broadcast and later apologized.

In a statement Monday prior to the announcement Franklin had been terminated, ESPN said, “We’re not going to get into specifics other than to say adhering to our personal-conduct policies and showing respect for colleagues are of the utmost importance to our company and we take them extremely seriously.”

The network issued a statement from Franklin that said: “I said some things I shouldn’t have and am sorry. I deserved to be taken off the Fiesta Bowl.”

Read More: Jeannine Edwards, Ron Franklin, Rumor Mill,

Report: Dolphins reach out to Bill Cowher, Jim Harbaugh

01.05.11 at 8:35 am ET
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Despite the fact that Tony Sparano still is coach of the team, the Dolphins have reached out to Bill Cowher and Jim Harbaugh, according to a Miami Herald report.

ESPN previously reported that Cowher has the Dolphins at the top of his wish list and that the former Steelers coach is willing to return to the NFL after four years in broadcasting if he finds the right fit. Reportedly, his list includes the Giants and Texans, both of whom decided this week to retain their coaches.

Harbaugh returned to the Bay Area from Miami on Tuesday after coaching Stanford to a 40-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Read More: Bill Cowher, Jim Harbaugh, Rumor Mill, Tony Sparano

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Ron Artest confronts Lakers coach Phil Jackson

01.05.11 at 7:46 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.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
NBA: Spurs at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE; WEEI)

AROUND THE WEB:

‘™¦ Ron Artest has tried to be on his behavior since joining the Lakers last season. On Tuesday, Lakers coach Phil Jackson confirmed that Artest reverted to his old ways recently, confronting the coach at a recent practice because he felt Jackson was embarrassing him in public.

Artest was not pleased that news of the incident was leaked. “I’ve worked too hard to have something like this come out,” Artest said Tuesday, prior to the Lakers’ win over the Pistons. “My image is very important to me ‘€” whatever image I have left ‘€” and this hurts, this really hurts.”

Added Artest, who apologized to the team for the confrontation: “I’ve tried so hard not to be part of any controversy, not to be part of any conflict, for this to come out now, that’s weird, and it’s really hard.”

Shortly after Tuesday’s game, Artest followed through on his promise to auction off his 2010 NBA championship ring, with the proceeds going to a mental health charity.

That wasn’t the only NBA team problem to be revealed this week. Former Celtic Tony Allen and Grizzlies teammate O.J. Mayo had an incident on a team plane Monday after gambling on a card game, and Mayo missed Memphis’ game Tuesday night reportedly because of it.

‘™¦ The NFL playoffs start this weekend, and with that comes the new overtimes rules. At NFL.com, Steve Wyche takes a look at the new system, which allows the other team to get a possession if the first team scores a field goal on the opening drive.

‘™¦ With Eric Mangini fired as coach of the Browns, Clark Judge at CBSSports.com talks to Mangini and finds a coach who is confident he had things turned around in Cleveland.

‘™¦ Voting for baseball’s Hall of Fame is Wednesday. Tyler Kepner in The New York Times writes that it’s not fair to leave off Jeff Bagwell based on assumptions but no proof that he used steroids.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Jan. 5, 1974, which Bruin became the oldest player in NHL history to score four goals in a game when he led the B’s to a 6-2 victory over the Islanders?

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Read More: Eric Mangini, Phil Jackson, Ron Artest,

Grizzlies Tony Allen, O.J. Mayo reportedly fight after card game

01.05.11 at 6:47 am ET
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According to a Yahoo! Sports report, Grizzlies teammates Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo brawled Monday following a card game on a team flight, and the team later confirmed a “brief altercation” occurred.

The pair reportedly had been playing “Boo-Ray” ‘€” the same game that led to the gun incident involving then-Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas last season. Mayo became belligerent and antagonistic after losing money to Allen and being asked to pay up.

‘€œTony warned [Mayo] to watch his mouth, and [Mayo] wouldn’€™t do it and just kept going off on him,’€ a source told Yahoo! Sports.

Mayo missed Tuesday’s 110-105 victory over the Thunder with what the team said was bronchitis, although sources told Yahoo! his absence was connected to the fight.

Allen, the former Celtic, replaced Mayo in the lineup and scored 19 points.

The two players reportedly talked on Monday and Tuesday and expressed regret about the incident.

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace released a statement, admitting a ‘€œbrief altercation’€ took place. ‘€œThe club considers the matter closed and will not comment further,’€ Wallace said.

Read More: O.J. Mayo, Rumor Mill, Tony Allen,

No decision yet on Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez

01.05.11 at 6:35 am ET
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Despite rumors to the contrary Tuesday, the University of Michigan has not fired football coach Rich Rodriguez.

According to an Associated Press report, Rodriguez met Tuesday with athletic director Dave Brandon and the two were expected to meet again Wednesday morning to discuss the coach’s future in Ann Arbor.

Rodriguez is 15-22 in three seasons guiding the Wolverines.

Read More: rich rodriguez, Rumor Mill,

Marvin Lewis to return to Bengals

01.04.11 at 3:54 pm ET
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With the Bengals coming off a 4-12 season and earning the fourth overall pick in the coming NFL draft, the team has re-signed head coach Marvin Lewis.

In eight seasons with the Bengals, Lewis has led the team to a record better than .500 just twice, and the team has lost both of its playoff games under him.

The team had announced on its twitter account earlier on Tuesday that the sides had not reached an agreement to bring Lewis back, while ESPN reported talks had hit a snag. With his return to the Bengals, Lewis is now the league’s fourth-longest tenured coach, behind Jeff Fisher, Andy Reid, and Bill Belichick.

WEEI.com Patriots reporter – and Cincinnati native – Mike Petraglia grew up with the Bengals and has his own unique perspective on how the Bengals could become the Patriots.

Read More: Bengals, e, Marvin Lewis, Rumor Mill

Report: Michigan fires Rich Rodriguez

01.04.11 at 3:43 pm ET
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The Detroit Free-Press is reporting that Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has decided to fire football coach Rich Rodriguez after three seasons in which Rodriguez went 15-22 and 6-18 in Big 10 play. He also lost three all games against Ohio State and was at the helm for two losing seasons and the end of Michigan’s consecutive bowl-game streak, which had run from 1975-2008. When Rodriguez did make a bowl game, this year’s Gator Bowl, the Wolverines suffered their worst bowl loss in school history, 52-14.

Early speculation on possible replacements includes former Michigan quarterback, and current Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh (although the Free-Press also reported that Harbaugh wasn’t likely to take the job) San Diego State coach Brady Hoke and LSU coach Les Miles.

Read More: Brady Hoke, Jim Harbaugh, Les Miles, rich rodriguez

Mavericks forward Caron Butler has season-ending surgery

01.04.11 at 3:26 pm ET
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Caron Butler, the Dallas Mavericks third-leading scorer, had surgery to repair a ruptured right patellar tendon, thus ending his season. The one-time UConn star was averaging 15 points, and four rebounds a game for the Mavericks who have the second-best record in the Western Conference (behind the Spurs) at 25-8.

Butler suffered the injury Saturday against Milwaukee. The Mavericks are also without Dirk Nowitzki, but he is expected to return soon from a sprained knee.

Read More: Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Rumor Mill,

How the Cincinnati Bengals could become the New England Patriots

01.04.11 at 2:13 pm ET
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I grew up with the Paul Brown-led Cincinnati Bengals, the greatest teacher the NFL has ever known. The Bengals of the 1970s had players like Ken Anderson, Tommy Casanova, Bill Bergey, Al Beauchamp, Ken Riley and later Anthony Munoz, Tim Krumrie and Boomer Esiason. All of them had the great combination of talent, character and intelligence. The criticism of the 2-14 2002 Bengals (coached by Dick LeBeau) was that they had character and intelligence but not enough talent. They drafted talent but not enough character and football IQ. Now – following a 4-12 season with lots of questions about the future – it’s time to reassess and come up with a comprehensive football operations plan to put the Bengals on the right path.

No matter the criticism of ownership (some of it very legitimate) or how bad it gets, I believe the Cincinnati Bengals will someday compete year-in and year-out for an NFL championship with the right short-term and long-term plan. Do it the right way, and you wind up like the New England Patriots, the premiere organization in the NFL. That’s what they should aspire to. I’ve had the true privilege and benefit of watching the team work at different levels up close – or at least as close as you can without having Robert Kraft sign the paycheck.

If Mike Brown and his daughter, Katie, asked, here’s what I’d do:

1. Hire a true GM and a coach. Don’t laugh but this could be Marvin Lewis. Lewis is a tremendous evaluator of talent, much in the fold of Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. There’s a reason Lewis is greatly respected around the NFL by people like Bill Belichick (who is for all intents and purposes GM/HC of the Patriots). If you’re Mike Brown, you have to start with the front office and the coaching staff. If you decide that Lewis is a good man and the right coach you’re most comfortable with – which I think is the case and that matters a lot to Brown – then bring him back for another year. Marvin has had to do way too much baby-sitting in the last four years, robbing him of on-field focus.

2. All about operations. If you bring back Lewis (and as I type this, NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reports and the Bengals later confirmed that Mike Brown has done just that) then that means you’ve decided to agree – to some degree – to his conditions of reworking the front office and facilities. While much has been made of the need of a true GM – like Mike Holgrem in Cleveland and Newsome in Baltimore – the Bengals desperately need to invest in their personnel/football ops departments even more. They need more people who can dedicate themselves to football research, including remote college, area and pro scouts who can offer constant input. Jim Lippincott is a terrific football man but he needs help like every other NFL Super Bowl-contending franchise has.

3. Decide Carson Palmer’s future. There is an out clause in his contract – which the Browns smartly wrote in – that allows them to move in a different direction if the wheels fell off. There are obviously those who think that’s what happened this year but upon further review, it is the opinion of this close observer that Palmer was distracted by receivers who made demands on him and he was not allowed to be the true leader of the offense. With Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco gone, Palmer can now work with the future skill stars of the offense in speedy Jerome Simpson, a solid slot receiver in Jordan Shipley (a bigger Wes Welker) and Jermaine Gresham (the best rookie tight end this side of Rob Gronkowski).

4. Bring in Josh McDaniels as your offensive coordinator. This serves a number of purposes. You need a new ‘voice’ and ‘direction’ from Bob Bratkowski for the offense. Josh McDaniels has clearly established himself as one of the best young coaches in the NFL who has worked with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for several successful years. He has the cache to rework Carson Palmer‘s approach, vision, thinking, etc. Palmer’s biggest problem this season – without question – was forcing the ball into small spaces in coverage. His vision seemed to completely disappear or become VERY narrow. Examples… Tampa Bay, at Pittsburgh, at Baltimore, at Indy, etc. McDaniels would point this out and would be the PERFECT fit for the need the Bengals have. Also, Cedric Benson has proved himself a stud running back in the last two years. He’s 28 with lots left in the tank. Keep him and Bernard Scott.

5. Draft to needs, not best player. Get yourself an impact player with the 4th pick. Early consensus is DB Patrick Peterson of LSU. The Bengals have never been a team to move down and with prime position this season, there’s no reason to start now. With a rookie salary cap looming as part of a new CBA, signing a top-5 pick won’t be nearly the detriment to the Brown family as it has in the past. The Bengals are loaded with young talent. This is a great chance to add to it. Get a guy like Florida’s Mike Pouncey (brother of Pittsburgh Maurkice) as center and then steal a QB in fourth or fifth round. I am VERY HIGH on Greg McElroy. Traditional NFL-system pocket passer, very solid front-foot mechanics and has played in winning system at Bama. He is very, very bright and considered a strong character-type. I see him as a Ken Anderson-type only at a huge program.

6. Bridge QB. Get a good back-up to Palmer to bridge the present to the future. If you don’t bring back Palmer, you need someone to step in and win now. They did that with Jon Kitna in 2003 and it worked out very well early on for Palmer, long before the Bengals became a reality show and before Kimo VonOelhoffen hit his knee in Jan. 2005 and his elbow was banged in Dallas in 2008. Whether or not you bring Palmer back, you need a legit starting QB with experience and no disrespect to Carson’s brother Jordan and his runpee.com website won’t cut it. There are several options out there Alex Smith could be one. They had one in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Only one start in the books but Matt Flynn could be one. Actually, Jon Kitna could be brought back again. That wouldn’t be all bad.

7. Need to raise the on-field leadership of the D. They are clearly a very, very talented and deep group. They have a great coordinator in Mike Zimmer under contract who’s not going anywhere. However, they need what Romeo Crennel had with the Patriots in their back-to-back Super Bowl title years of 2003-04. Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison. They were much more than talented players. They were leaders on the field who directed and corrected. That’s what the Bengals could really, really use to reach the next level. That’s exactly what the Steelers have in Troy Palomalu and the Ravens have in Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.

8. Draft or sign rookie free agent as an energy player. My personal favorite here is Matt Szczur of Villanova. Full disclosure – I am a Villanova ’88 grad but anyone who has watched Szczur on the Main Line of Philadelphia knows this kid can do it all. He’s the best NFL prospect to come out of Villanova since Brian Westbrook and Nova has produced NFL players like Ray Ventrone who played a key special teams role on the perfect regular season of the Patriots in 2007. His brother Ross (Villanova ’10) is on the Pats’ practice squad. Szczur is quick, tough and a bone marrow donor to a girl within the past year so that answers that character question. He has been drafted by the Cubs in MLB which speaks to his pure athleticism. Hearing he really wants to play in the NFL and he would be a perfect fit for a team like the Bengals. The Patriots have done a phenomenal job with this as they have 21 undrafted players on their roster. They’re 14-2. That worked out pretty good.

9. Get back to being a football team, not a reality show. With T-O and Ocho likely on their way out, this should be a pretty easy task. While it’s great that everyone was talking about the Bengals in the last two seasons because of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in 2009 and Ocho’s and TO’s reality shows, it eventually became a focus. This was completely out of Lewis’ hands. The team committed WAYYY too many penalties that pointed to a lack of discipline and focus. They were among the league leaders in false starts and illegal formations – completely avoidable mistakes if you’re a focused team.

10. Preparation is everything. Too many times over the past five years – even in division winning seasons – the Bengals have suffered from not being ready for a multitude of game situations. They need more players committed to learning all of these scenarios, two-minute drills, etc. Again, while Lewis takes responsibility for this area, he needs more players who are committed to it.

The Bengals have the foundation of a winning franchise but they need to work on the infrastructure. By following the above general game plan, they have the chance of building a winner for years to come.

Respectfully,
Mike Petraglia
@trags

Read More: Bill Belichick, Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals, Katie Brown

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Most erroneous sports columns of 2010

01.04.11 at 7:53 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.

WHAT’S HAPPENING LOCALLY TUESDAY:
No games scheduled

AROUND THE WEB:

‘™¦ The website RealClearSports has a collection of the 10 most erroneous sports columns of 2010. There are three Boston-related items in the bunch. One is a New York Post column by Gary Myers predicting the Jets will overtake the Patriots, written in the lead-up to the Pats‘ Monday night rout. Another is Boston Globe Dan Shaughnessy twice predicting the Patriots’ demise. The third is Cleveland News Herald writer Jim Ingraham noting that the Cavaliers don’t have to worry about the Celtics in the playoffs.

‘™¦ Following their 21-point loss Sunday to the Grizzlies in which they were booed by their own fans, the Lakers looked for answers for their recent troubles. Coach Phil Jackson criticized Kobe Bryant for reverting to his ball-hogging ways. In The Los Angeles Times, Mike Bresnahan examines the Lakers’ problems.

‘™¦ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was named NBA Coach of the Month for December, but LeBron James‘ tempered enthusiasm when asked about the honor makes Fox Sports Florida’s Bill Reiter believe LeBron will only tolerate but never celebrate his coach ‘€” much like his previous coaches.

‘™¦ The embarrassing Terrell Pryor situation at Ohio State continues to get worse. At Yahoo! Sports, Dan Wetzel takes a look at how foolish the school and the NCAA look for allowing the quarterback to play in Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl despite obvious rules violations.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Jan. 4, 1985, the Celtics honored Red Auerbach by retiring which number in his honor?

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Read More: Erik Spoelstra, kobe bryant, LeBron James, Phil Jackson