Monday’s Sports in Brief – Virginian-Pilot




COLLEGE FOOTBALL

CHICAGO (AP) — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn’t just believe the Big Ten has closed the gap with the more heralded Southeastern Conference. He is convinced the race is a dead heat already.

“I don’t think there’s a gap at all,” Meyer said at Big Ten media days. “I’ve coached in the SEC East when that was one of the strongest in the country. And I think the Big Ten East right now is every bit as strong as I can remember the SEC East,” where he won two national championships at Florida.

Sheer numbers suggest the Big Ten still has some work ahead of it.

The SEC dominated the Big Ten the last two seasons, when it won six of the eight meetings between them. Its average margin of victory was 23.8 points. Five of the wins were by 14 points or more.

The Big Ten won the other two games by a total of 36 points, largely the result of Michigan’s 41-7 rout of Florida in the 2016 Citrus Bowl.

The SEC was 2-1 in head-to-head matchups last season. The lone Big Ten success? Wisconsin 16, LSU 14.

PRO FOOTBALL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Panthers have fired longtime personnel man Mark Koncz in yet another front office shakeup.

The decision came Monday, on the eve of players reporting to training camp.

Koncz, 50, had been promoted earlier this offseason by former general manager Dave Gettleman to director of player personnel after serving the previous 17 years as pro scouting director. However, new interim general manager Marty Hurney made the decision to fire Koncz.

Hurney told The Associated Press he has the utmost respect for Koncz, but the decision was based on “structure” and “the lines of communication.”

Koncz has been with the Panthers since they began playing in 1995.

Carolina also signed wide receiver Trevor Graham, a former third-round pick by the Bills in 2012. Graham previously went by the first name “T.J.”

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Instead of delivering hits to ball carriers, David Bruton Jr. is hitting the books.

The former Denver Broncos safety and special teams ace who announced his retirement after eight seasons in the NFL wants to become a physical therapist.

He began taking prerequisite courses at the University of Colorado-Denver in January and will enter physical therapy school next fall, putting him on pace to get his license by 2022.

Bruton, who once played 77 snaps on a broken leg, said he sustained six concussions in his career, including one that ended his season prematurely last year, and is walking away because he doesn’t want to risk more hits to the head.

BASEBALL

SEATTLE (AP) — The Boston Red Sox are giving highly touted prospect Rafael Devers a day to get acclimated to big league life. Then, he’s expected to make his first start in the majors — against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez.

Hoping to get more production at third base, the AL East leaders called up the 20-year-old Devers after just nine games at Triple-A Pawtucket.

The left-handed hitting Devers wasn’t in the starting lineup Monday night against tough lefty James Paxton. It was anticipated Devers would start Tuesday night at third base, facing Hernandez.

Devers hit .300 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 77 games with Double-A Portland, then hit .400 with two homers in his abbreviated stint at Pawtucket.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hoping to bolster their rotation for a playoff run, the Minnesota Twins got veteran left-handed pitcher Jaime García, catcher Anthony Recker and cash from the Atlanta Braves for minor league righty Huascar Ynoa.

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The 31-year-old García is 66-52 with a 3.65 ERA and 808 strikeouts in 176 appearances, mostly with St. Louis (2008, 2010-16). He missed the 2009 MLB season following Tommy John surgery.

Garcia is 4-7 with a 4.30 ERA, 41 walks and 85 strikeouts in 18 starts this year.

Twins manager Paul Molitor said he planned to start Garcia on Friday night at Oakland.

HOCKEY

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Sabres winger Kyle Okposo says he is fully healthy after a concussion led to sleeping trouble, significant weight loss and a trip to intensive care last March.

Okposo missed the final few weeks of Buffalo’s season with a previously undisclosed illness. In a letter posted on the team’s website, Okposo says a routine hit in practice caused his mood to change and other problems that required hospitalization.

The 29-year-old says he had a negative reaction to sleep medications and that at one point he weighed less than 200 pounds. He spent time in the Neuro Surgical ICU at Buffalo General Hospital to be stabilized. Okposo’s playing weight is listed at 218 pounds.

Okposo played in a 4-on-4 summer league game in Minnesota with other NHL players last week.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — A scuba-diving treasure hunter who found an American Hockey League Hall of Fame ring in one of New York’s Finger Lakes has returned it to its owner.

Auburn, New York, resident Gary Gavurnik returned the prized ring to former hockey star Dick Gamble on Monday. Gavurnik found it with a metal detector in Canandaigua (kan-un-DAY’-gwuh) Lake during the Fourth of July weekend.

The 88-year-old Canadian-born Gamble starred for the Rochester Americans and retired in the 1969-70 season. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2007.

He gave the ring to his son, Craig, who wore it every day for seven years before losing it in the lake. He never told his dad and ordered a replacement.

Craig said the return was “fantastic.”




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