Around the Nation (Dec. 27): Change almost a certainty for Browns

Associated Press Published:

Associated Press

FOOTBALL

Dawson, Browns prep for likely big changes

BEREA -- The season is about to end for the Browns, and usually that means change is next.

Two weeks ago, Cleveland still had a chance to make the playoffs. But two straight lopsided losses and a slew of injuries have placed the Browns in a familiar predicament as they prepare for Sunday's season finale at Pittsburgh. Coach Pat Shurmur is likely to be replaced next week, and new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner may make sweeping changes to an organization that has had 11 double-digit loss seasons since 1999.

Kicker Phil Dawson, who was elected to his first Pro Bowl on Wednesday, said "change isn't easy and I don't know anyone who enjoys it." He's trying to block out an uncertain future as he prepares for what could be his final game with Cleveland.

Deal reached in case of blog posts about rape

COLUMBUS -- A high school student and his family have dropped their lawsuit against a blogger and anonymous posters to her blog site in a case that arose from online comments about a rape investigation involving two high school football players.

At issue were suggestions in those comments that the student might have been involved in the incident but never charged.

As part of the settlement announced Thursday, the operator of the crime blog acknowledged that there was no evidence of his involvement in the rape, while the student, Cody Saltsman, apologized in a statement for tweets he sent the night of the alleged attack.

"At no time did my family mean to stop anyone from expressing themselves online," Saltsman said in a statement posted on the blog site prinnified.com. The family "only wanted to correct what we believed were misstatements."

Saltsman also acknowledged the work of the site's bloggers "to make sure the full truth about that terrible night eventually comes out."

The settlement is a victory for free speech, said Scott Greenwood, who represented for free the anonymous bloggers on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. Anonymous speech has long been protected in this country, he said, and it's important to preserve that right, especially when people are feeling intimidated about an issue they're commenting on.

"People shouldn't be sued for expressing outrage about, to be blunt, what's alleged to be a gang rape," Greenwood said.

The two players in Steubenville in eastern Ohio were charged in August with rape after a girl's parents reported a sexual assault to police.

Blogger Alexandria Goddard of prinnified.com said in a statement that no postings were retracted, no commentary will be restricted in the future and no money changed hands.

"We recognize that some things written here may have created the impression that Cody was involved in the alleged rape, and we wish to clarify that we have no evidence of any such involvement," Goddard, a former Steubenville area resident, said in a statement.

"This site was happy to provide a forum for locals in Steubenville to engage in important speech protected by the First Amendment, and will continue to do so," she added.

Goddard's attorneys said everyone benefits from the settlement.

"It's a win for free and anonymous speech -- the right to comment and criticize without fear of retribution is fundamental to the workings of our liberal democracy," they said in a statement.

Barkley out for Sun Bowl as career ends

EL PASO, Texas -- Matt Barkley's career at Southern California is over.

Coach Lane Kiffin has announced that the senior quarterback won't play in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech because of an injured shoulder. Instead, redshirt freshman Max Wittek will make his second career start.

Barkley's throwing shoulder was injured during USC's second-to-last game against UCLA. He didn't play in the season-finale against Notre Dame. Wittek started the game and the Trojans lost to the Fighting Irish to fall to 7-5 on the season.

Kay's arm leads Bearcats past Duke in Belk Bowl

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brendon Kay threw for 332 yards and a Belk Bowl-record four touchdowns, and Cincinnati capitalized on Duke's inept play in the closing minutes to beat the Blue Devils 48-34 on Thursday night.

Duke appeared to have the game in hand and was driving for the go-ahead score -- and its first bowl victory since 1961 -- but the final 80 seconds proved disastrous. With the game tied at 34 and the Blue Devils positioning themselves for a winning field goal, running back Josh Snead fumbled at the Cincinnati 5-yard line with 1:20 left and Bearcats defensive lineman John Williams recovered.

Kay then connected with tight end Travis Kelce on an 83-yard touchdown strike down the middle with 44 seconds left for the go-ahead score.

Cincinnati (10-3) sealed it on the next series when Maalik Bomar came crashing into Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, forcing a deflection that Nick Temple returned 55 yards for a touchdown.

Renfree threw for 358 yards -- another Belk Bowl record -- for the Blue Devils (6-7).

San Jose State tops BG for Military Bown win

WASHINGTON -- David Fales completed 33-of-43 passes for 395 yards and two touchdowns Thursday as No. 24 San Jose State completed a comeback season with a 29-20 win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl.

Fales led the drive that set up Austin Lopez's 27-yard field goal with 4:43 remaining, and De'Leon Eskridge's 1-yard run with 2:34 left provided the insurance.

The Spartans finished 11-2 and are in the national rankings for the first time since 1975. They capped the year with a seven-game winning streak for their first 11-win season since 1940, a remarkable turnaround for a program that was 1-12 just two years ago and led Colorado to hire away coach Mike MacIntyre earlier this month.

Bowling Green finished 8-5.

LeBeau plans on return to Steelers defense

PITTSBURGH -- Armed with a promise from his beloved defensive coordinator that he wouldn't retire without first informing his players, Ryan Clark threatened to avoid Dick LeBeau.

Clark needn't worry. The 75-year-old LeBeau has every intention of returning in 2013 for what would be a 55th consecutive season in the NFL.

LeBeau opened his first meeting of the week with his defense by telling the players he'll come back for a 10th season as Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator.

LeBeau, a Hall of Famer, publicly will only say his status is in the hands of head coach Mike Tomlin. But with the defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL for the second consecutive season and fifth time in nine years, there's little reason to think Tomlin would make a change.

BASKETBALL

Howard fined after hit on Knicks' Faried

NEW YORK -- Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard has been fined $35,000 for a flagrant foul against Denver's Kenneth Faried.

The fine was announced Thursday by Stu Jackson, the NBA's executive vice president for basketball operations.

The incident, in which Howard made excessive contact with Faried above the shoulders, occurred with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter of the Lakers' 126-114 loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday.

Akron men top Texas Southern, 83-68

AKRON -- Demetrius Treadwell had a double-double, Zeke Marshall turned in 21 points and Akron won its third straight Thursday when it rolled over Texas Southern 83-68 in a nonconference game.

Treadwell had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Zips (7-4) while Marshall added eight boards and five blocks. He entered averaging 3.9 blocks per game, fourth in the country.

Texas Southern (1-12) has lost 10 straight games for its second 10-game losing streak in two years.

Akron opened on an 11-0 run that spanned nearly five minutes and rolled to a 43-23 halftime advantage.

Omar Strong had 33 points, his highest output in a regulation game with the Tigers.

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