The NFL and the rulemaking competition committee are discussing “a few options” related to instant replay for the owners to consider as prospective preseason experiments, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. Those ideas may be considered during the owners’ video conference May 28, when they are to discuss rule-change proposals for the upcoming season and potentially vote on them. The NFL already has gotten rid of the rule that made pass interference reviewable by instant replay last season. The league and competition committee decided last month to allow that rule to expire after one year without even a renewal vote of the owners being taken. A “sky judge” — or booth umpire — could serve as, in effect, a replacement for that rule. The sky judge would be a member of the officiating crew stationed in front of a video monitor at each game, empowered to overturn any obviously erroneous call by on-field officials. NFL coaches supported the concept last offseason but it was put aside in favor of the rule that made interference reviewable. Two teams, the Ravens and Chargers, have proposed a booth umpire this offseason for consideration by the owners. A separate proposal by the Ravens and Chargers calls for the addition of a senior technology adviser to the referee to each officiating crew. That proposal, which apparently would give the video official less authority than a sky judge would possess, also could be a candidate for a preseason experiment. Other proposals made by individual teams this offseason include the Eagles proposing a fourth-and-15 alternative to the onside kick, a concept not approved by the owners last offseason when it was proposed by the Broncos. The Eagles also have proposed restoring overtime during preseason and regular-season games to 15 minutes, up from the current 10 minutes.
NFL continues social justice support
The NFL has awarded two new grants and renewed seven others through Inspire Change, its social justice platform. The new honorees are Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO, Inc.) and Success For All. Both organizations will use the funding for educational advancement. The league’s initiatives grew from players’ demonstrations concerning social justice, including kneeling during the national anthem. More than $44 million in grants have gone to organizations nationwide, including more than 750 grants provided by the NFL Foundation to current NFL and former NFL players for nonprofits of their choice. CLEO, Inc., focuses on inspiring, motivating, and preparing students from underrepresented communities to succeed in law school and beyond. More than 25,000 students from all 50 states have been touched by CLEO to include judges, academicians, public service and private practitioners. It is receiving $50,000 from the league’s Player-Owner Social Justice Working Group, an amount that will allow CLEO to expand its virtual programming to more than 500 college, pre-law and current law school students. Success For All ’s grant of $250,000 will support programs to improve education for at-risk students through The Getting Along Together Program, and will provide professional development support for 12 schools in Nashville, serving approximately 6,000 students. Success for All was developed in 1987 at Johns Hopkins University and became an independent nonprofit foundation in 1999. It has helped nearly 3 million children nationwide and currently is working with 125 school districts in 38 states, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. The renewals announced Tuesday will go to: Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) and its Hope and Redemption Team; Big Brother Big Sisters of America; Gideon’s Promise; NAF; Operation HOPE; Vera Institute of Justice; and VOTE NOLA . . . The Colts signed offensive lineman Danny Pinter, the first of their nine draft picks, to a four-year deal worth about $3.6 million. The 6-foot-4-inch, 306-pound offensive lineman was a fifth-round selection, No. 149 overall, after earning first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors at Ball State last season . . . The Cardinals re-signed cornerback Kevin Peterson to a one-year contract. The 26-year-old Peterson played in 14 games last season and started three after being pushed into a bigger role because of Patrick Peterson’s six-game suspension and Robert Alford’s season-ending injury. The Cardinals also released cornerback Andre Chachere. He spent two different stints with Arizona on the practice squad last season.
Kentucky Derby reroutes prep trail
Churchill Downs released a preliminary list of races that could be used as an extension of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep schedule, pending agreement by the host tracks. The 146th Derby was rescheduled for Sept. 5 from its traditional spot on the first Saturday in May because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Preakness and Belmont — the other legs of the Triple Crown — have yet to be rescheduled. If they are run before the Derby, points to the top four finishers would be worth 150-60-30-15. The lone prep race in May will be the $150,000 Matt Winn on May 23 at Churchill Downs. The top four finishers will receive points of 50-20-10-5. That’s an increase from the previously announced points of 10-4-2-1. Other preps have been added on a regional basis, and once the New York Racing Association finalizes its stakes schedule, more preps could be added to the series. The point values for each race will be subject to readjustment based on their proximity to all Triple Crown races. The stakes schedule, for now, is made up of East: Haskell and Pegasus; Midwest: Matt Winn, Indiana Derby, Blue Grass, and Ellis Park Derby; West: Santa Anita Derby, Los Alamitos Derby, and Shared Belief . . . A 13th horse has died at Santa Anita since late December. Tailback, a 4-year-old gelding, broke down after a workout Sunday at the Arcadia, Calif., track. Tailback had no wins in two career starts and earnings of $4,340, according to Equibase. He completed a 4-furlong workout on the main dirt track in 49.20 seconds. Tailback is the sixth horse to die on the main track since Dec. 26; four others died on the turf course and three on the training track.
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari to part ways
One of the most iconic teams in Formula One and one of the most popular drivers in the global motor racing series are parting ways, after Sebastian Vettel said Tuesday that the current season would be his last with Ferrari. Vettel, 32, joined the team in 2015 as a four-time champion but has been unable to bring his winning touch to Ferrari, which has millions of devotees around the world and whose red liveried cars retain an almost unmatched allure for drivers. But both the driver and the team are going through a rough patch. Mercedes and its British driver, Lewis Hamilton, have all but monopolized both the drivers’ standings and the constructors’ championships, and Vettel’s place as the dominant driver on the Italian team has been usurped by Charles Leclerc of Monaco. Vettel had been in talks about renewing his contract for months before the surprise announcement Tuesday. Although news reports suggested that he was not happy with the salary and duration that had been offered, he denied money was behind his decision. “To get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony,” Vettel said in comments published on the Ferrari team’s website. “The team and I have realized that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season.” Addressing the matter of his compensation and its role in his decision, he said, “That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices, and it never will be.”
UConn women to host Hall of Fame Challenge
UConn and Mississippi State are scheduled to play in November’s Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge basketball tournament in Connecticut. The tournament is hosted by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and held at the Mohegan Sun Arena, about 30 miles from UConn’s campus in Storrs. The Huskies are scheduled to take on instate rival Quinnipiac in the tournament’s first round while the Bulldogs open the tournament against Maine. The winners will face off the next day in the championship game and the losers will meet in a third-place game. Mississippi State and UConn have not met since the 2017 national semifinals in which the Bulldogs upset the top-ranked Huskies 66-64 in overtime to snap the Huskies’ record 111-game win streak . . . The Maryland men’s basketball team signed forward Galin Smith, who appeared in 94 games over the past three seasons at Alabama. The 6-foot-9-inch Smith has one year of eligibility remaining, effective immediately. Other newcomers for the Terps include Boston College transfer Jairus Hamilton and incoming freshmen Marcus Dockery and Aquan Smart.
Kobe Bryant’s academy to retire “Mamba” name
The Southern California sports academy previously co-owned by the late Kobe Bryant has retired his “Mamba” nickname and rebranded itself nearly four months after the basketball icon’s death in a helicopter crash. Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed as they flew to a basketball tournament Jan. 26 at the Mamba Sports Academy when the chopper crashed in thick fog northwest of Los Angeles. The Thousand Oaks-based facility announced it would return to its original name of Sports Academy and retire the “Mamba” name to the rafters. The academy was founded in 2016; Bryant, who spent 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and helped the franchise win five NBA championships, joined in 2018. The academy is under consideration as a home base for the G League’s new select program, which is scheduled to begin in the fall. The program will serve as a one-year prepping, both on and off the court, for certain elite players who chose to bypass college but are not yet eligible for the NBA Draft . . . Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen is no longer with the organization, a person familiar with the move told the Associated Press. No other details were provided. Cohen has been with the Coyotes since being hired in 2015 as chief operating officer and chief legal officer by previous owner Andrew Barroway. Cohen was named president and CEO in 2017 after Steve Patterson stepped back to serve as a consultant and adviser after a year on the job. Alex Meruelo purchased a 95 percent stake in the team less than a year ago and signed general manager John Chayka to a long-term contract extension early in the 2019-20 season. The Coyotes were still in contention for a Western Conference playoff spot when the NHL season was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic . . . Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., will host the 2030 PGA Championship, the PGA of America announced. Southern Hills was originally awarded a record fifth PGA Championship in June 2017, but the year had not been determined. Southern Hills also will host the 2021 Senior PGA Championship. The course has hosted seven major championships, beginning with the 1958 US Open. Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship there in 2007 . . . Ukraine forward Artem Biesiedin has been banned from soccer for one year in a doping case, UEFA said. The ban ends on Dec. 19, leaving Biesiedin clear to play at the postponed European Championship in June 2021. The 24-year-old Biesiedin scored in the last game of Ukraine’s qualifying group in November — a 2-2 draw at Serbia. Less than two weeks later, Biesiedin tested positive for a banned stimulant while playing for Dynamo Kyiv after a Europa League game against Malmo, UEFA said. The stimulant, Fonturacetam, is described in scientific journals as being “developed in Russia as a stimulant to keep astronauts awake on long missions.”