Sports Briefs

Posted: Thursday, May 13, 2004

Bigger league means bigger money for ACC

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference got new teams, and now, it's getting more money.

The expanding conference announced a new, seven-year television deal for football with ABC and ESPN, beginning in the fall. An industry source familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the overall deal was worth $258 million, or an average of about $37.6 million a year.

The source said the per-school payouts for the regular season don't increase substantially until the 2006 season, and that the payouts for the upcoming season are the same as they were in 2003, which wound up as the final year of the old deal.

Still, all parties were hailing this as a success, both for the networks and the league.

''This was a very important negotiation for our league and its future,'' ACC commissioner John Swofford said Wednesday at the close of the league's annual meetings. ''We feel very good about both the exposure aspects of it, as well as the financial aspects of it.''

Suns coach gets two-year extension

PHOENIX -- Mike D'Antoni got a two-year contract extension to coach the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, and is excited about the future of a team he spent two-thirds of a season rebuilding.

D'Antoni replaced the fired Frank Johnson on Dec. 10 after Phoenix got off to an 8-13 start. The Suns went 21-40 the rest of the way, including beating Utah on the road in their finale -- just enough to avoid last place in the Western Conference and tying for the second-worst record in franchise history.

D'Antoni who had a year left on his contract, is signed through the 2006-07 season.

South Africa favored to land 2010 World Cup

LONDON -- Four years after losing to Germany by one vote in bidding for the 2006 World Cup, South Africa is a strong favorite to win the right to host soccer's showpiece event in 2010.

World governing body FIFA decided to hold the World Cup in Africa for the first time, and there are five candidates: South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he expects Tunisia, which wants to jointly host with Libya, to withdraw before Saturday's vote in Zurich, Switzerland.

Japan and South Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup, but FIFA vetoed a repeat, saying it wants the tournament in one country.

That gives South Africa, which has nine stadiums already and plans to build four more, an even better chance of winning. As it is, the country has a healthy economy, good transportation and is a big tourist attraction.

South Africa has another edge over Morocco, Libya and Egypt: There is no evidence that it has harbored terrorists. While the Libyans and Egyptians insist they are now free of terrorists, arrests that followed recent bombings in Europe showed links to Moroccans.

The sympathy factor also favors South Africa, given what happened in 2000. It was expected to land the 2006 World Cup, but a strong German campaign in the final days led to a 12-11 victory.

FIFA executive committee member Charles Dempsey, from New Zealand, abstained on the final ballot. Had he voted for South Africa, the result would have been a tie, forcing Blatter to cast the deciding ballot.

A FIFA report a week ago put South Africa ahead of the field.

''This report strengthens our case significantly,'' said Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the South African bid. ''I'm still nervous about the outcome. I'm still working hard.''

South Africa's bid has to overcome two elements.

Although apartheid has been gone for a decade, the country has a well-known crime problem that could scare away visiting fans.

Also, South Africa is farther from Europe than other bidders; nearly half of the World Cup entrants will be European.

In a surprise, the FIFA report ranked Egypt second, ahead of Morocco.

Egypt, which has five existing stadiums and seven planned, had the potential to stage an ''excellent World Cup,'' said the report, pointing to ''total commitment'' from the nation's government and huge public enthusiasm. Morocco, with three stadiums built, three under construction and three more planned, was ranked as ''very good.''

''For some time, we felt that we were far back in the competition,'' said Adli el-Qayie, secretary-general of the Egyptian Football Association. ''But now we are in the competition and our hope is that South Africa will not end the competition in the first round.''

While the report pleased the South Africans and Egyptians, it angered the Moroccans.

''Everything so far had shown we were neck-and-neck with South Africa,'' Moroccan bid leader Saad Kettani said, citing ''discrepancies and glaring contradictions'' in the FIFA evaluation.

Libya and Tunisia -- if it stays in the race -- are considered long shots.

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