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POSTED February 29, 2012 8:46 p.m.


REPORT: UCLA PLAYERS UNDERMINED DISCIPLINE, MORALE: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Sports Illustrated report cites players and staff members from the past four UCLA basketball teams who say that coach Ben Howland allowed an influx of talented but immature recruits to undermine team discipline and morale as the once-proud program has struggled to live up to its storied history.

The report on Sports Illustrated's website, which says SI spoke with more than a dozen players and staff members from those teams over the last two months, outlines a program in disarray where teammates have come to blows, several players routinely used alcohol and drugs — sometimes before practice — and one player intentionally injured teammates but received no punishment.

One player of note was former Modesto Christian star Reeves Nelson, who was dismissed from the team last December after twice having been suspended for insubordinate behavior this season.


NASCAR SUSPENDS CREW CHIEF KNAUS 6 RACES: CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR issued steep penalties against five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and his team for failing the first inspection for the Daytona 500.

Crew chief Chad Knaus was fined $100,000 and suspended six races Wednesday, car chief Ron Malec also was barred for six races, and Johnson was docked 25 points, sending him into this weekend's race last in the Sprint Cup Series standings.

The penalties stem from a failed inspection Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR said the No. 48 Chevrolet had illegally modified sheet metal between the roof and the side windows, an area known as the C-posts.

Hendrick Motorsports immediately said it would appeal, and Knaus and Malec can attend races during the process.


A-ROD, JETER NOT TAKING BAIT OVER VALENTINE’S JABS: TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alex Rodriguez laughed off Bobby Valentine's comments about his 2004 scrap with Jason Varitek, then made a brief statement and ducked through the crowd of reporters surrounding his locker.

Derek Jeter spoke longer, but was no less bemused.

The first Yankees-Red Sox stir of the new season appears to be fizzling out.

Valentine, Boston's new manager, said Tuesday that Jeter didn't need to make his famous flip-to-home relay during the 2001 playoffs and fondly recalled when Varitek "beat up" Rodriguez in 2004.

Rodriguez said Wednesday he didn't want to get into a war of words with Valentine. Jeter found the topic ridiculous, saying he's "indifferent" to Valentine's jabs.


REYNA, MEOLA ELECTED TO US SOCCER HALL OF FAME: CHICAGO (AP) — Former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna and goalkeeper Tony Meola have been elected to the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Former defender Desmond Armstrong was elected on the veterans' ballot and former women's national team coach Tony DiCicco on the builder ballot, the U.S. Soccer Federation said Wednesday.

Reyna, the U.S. captain at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, appeared on 96 percent of the player ballots cast by an electorate that includes Hall of Famers, administrators and media. Meola, starting goalkeeper at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, was on 90 percent. Both were on the ballot for the first time.

The induction date has not been set. U.S. soccer no longer has a building for its hall. The one in Oneonta, N.Y., closed two years ago.


STEELERS WILL RELEASE WR HINES WARD: PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Steelers will release wide receiver Hines Ward.

A four-time Pro Bowl selection, who holds franchise records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, Ward, 35, has spent all of his 14 NFL seasons with Pittsburgh.

"We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year," Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement on the team's website. "Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve."

Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl in 2006 after leading the Steelers to a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He posted a game-high 123 receiving yards on five receptions with one touchdown.


JEWISH SCHOOL AGAIN DENIED PLAYOFF RESET: HOUSTON (AP) — A state association has again voted down a request by a Jewish Orthodox school in Houston to move the start of its scheduled boys' basketball playoff game this weekend so the team wouldn't violate its Sabbath.

The Beren Academy advanced to the 2A semifinals of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial School's boys' basketball tournament, but its next game was slated for 9 p.m. on Friday.

The Beren students, bound by their religion, recognize the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday. The school appealed to TAPPS to change its game time, but the TAPPS board unanimously voted down the appeal, citing a bylaw.

The story gained national attention, and the TAPPS board met again on Wednesdaybut voted 8-0 to keep this weekend's schedule intact.

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