Sports Briefs 3-6-13

TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer Published:

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns have changed Mike Lombardi's title to general manager.

Lombardi was named the club's vice president of player personnel on Jan. 18 after he spent the past five years working for as a TV commentator. On Tuesday, the Browns elevated him to GM and hired Ray Farmer as the team's assistant GM. Farmer had been Kansas City's director of pro personnel the past seven years

Farmer interviewed with the Browns during their GM search this offseason and CEO Joe Banner said the team "came away extremely impressed." Banner previously worked with Farmer in Philadelphia, where he played linebacker for three seasons. With the Chiefs, Farmer was responsible for scouting players with professional experience and evaluating current NFL players.

Lombardi's promotion comes a week before the Browns open free agency more than $46 million under the salary cap.

• Football

Merriman to retire: Linebacker Shawne Merriman is calling it "Lights Out" on his career.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection and 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year said on his website that he intends to file retirement papers.

"I retire today not because I don't feel I can go out there and still play the game at a very high level," Merriman wrote. "I am retiring because I want to retire on my own terms and leave while I know I can still physically play the game."

Guarantees title: Von Miller is pulling a Joe Namath and it's only March. Denver's star pass-rusher is already guaranteeing a Super Bowl title for the Broncos next season.

Miller said he's dedicating the season to his 6-year-old cousin who recently emerged from a coma after a car accident in West Texas that also injured his mother and 8-year-old brother.

• Elsewhere

Seek pardon: Lawmakers seeking a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the world's first black heavyweight boxing champion imprisoned a century ago for his romantic relationships with white women, renewed their efforts on Tuesday. Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John McCain, R-Ariz., joined Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and William "Mo" Cowan, D-Mass., to reintroduce a resolution urging President Barack Obama to pardon Johnson because he was wronged by a racially motivated conviction.

Johnson, a native of Galveston, Texas, was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. He was hated by many white Americans, especially after retaining his title by defeating white boxer Jim Jeffries in the 1910 "Fight of the Century."

Not a sport: A U.S. District Court judge in Connecticut has again ruled that competitive cheerleading, despite some upgrades, is not a sport, and says Quinnipiac University must remain under an injunction that requires the school to keep its women's volleyball team.

Several volleyball players and their coach successfully sued the university in 2009 after it announced it would eliminate volleyball for budgetary reasons and replace it with a competitive cheer squad. U.S. District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill ruled in their favor, saying that competitive cheerleading had not developed enough to be considered a college sport for Title IX purposes, and he ordered the school to keep the volleyball team and come up with a compliance plan.

Money for schools: Big East football schools will get almost all of a $110 million pot in a deal that will allow seven departing basketball schools to keep the name Big East and start playing in their own conference next season, a person familiar with the negotiations says.

The football schools will receive approximately $100 million under the agreement, most of which will go to holdover members Connecticut, South Florida and Cincinnati. The basketball schools will receive $10 million, the Big East name and the right to play their conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Wrestling campaign: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is hoping support from dozens of governors will help a campaign to keep wrestling in the Olympics. Branstad sent a letter Tuesday co-signed by 33 governors to International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge. It urges that the committee reconsider its decision to remove wrestling in 2020.

Branstad says in the letter the Olympics should respect key traditions. Wrestling was featured in the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

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