Notre Dame makes stunning switch to ACC

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Notre Dame makes stunning switch to ACC

From Comcast SportsNetSOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame has picked its conference. Now it has to decide which football rivalry games to keep.The announcement Wednesday that Notre Dame is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football and hockey came with a provision that the Fighting Irish play five football games a year against league opponents. That's good news for fans who want to see the Irish play Miami more often, but may not be welcomed by some traditional rivals.The deal calls for the Irish to play each ACC team once every three years, which means traditional games against Pittsburgh and Boston College will end. Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Notre Dame will continue to play Navy, which bailed out the school in the 1940s when it was struggling financially by putting programs on the South Bend campus. The Irish also will keep playing Southern California and Stanford, to keep a presence on the West Coast.But what of Big Ten rivals Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue? Swarbrick wasn't ready to say immediately. He did say, however, the shift in scheduling wouldn't be as big as some people think."We're going to keep some traditional rivals and we're going to get around the country. We're still going to be in California every year and we're still going to find a way to get into the Southwest. And, of course, this gives us a great East Coast footprint and we want to make sure we keep a Midwest presence, too," he said. "We'll meet our mission and make sure Notre Dame is playing everywhere in the country."Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke expects the Boilermakers to continue playing the Irish."We have a long-time relationship with Notre Dame involving many of our programs, and we expect it to continue," he said.Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon hopes to keep the series against Notre Dame going after their contract expires in 2020, but said it will be Notre Dame's decision. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said the Spartans have a contract that runs through 2031 that calls for games against Notre Dame for four years and then two off years.But with five ACC games on the schedule, games against USC, Stanford and Navy, if the Irish played all three Big Ten opponents it would have just one other game on the schedule.Notre Dame will begin playing five ACC teams in 2014. It wasn't clear when it would join the league in other sports because the Big East has a 27-month notification period for any member that wants to leave, and a 5 million exit fee. The Big East has shown a willingness to negotiate, as it did with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who paid 7.5 million each to get out early. Swarbrick wouldn't say when Notre Dame would leave, but indicated he would try to work out a deal."My own philosophy is, it's in everybody's interests to do it sooner rather than later," Swarbrick said.One of the key reasons Notre Dame decided to move from the Big East, which it joined in 1995, was because the ACC's offer allowed the Irish to be part of its bowl rotation. For the next two seasons, if Notre Dame doesn't earn a BCS berth it must wait to see what conferences can't fill their bowl allotments to see where it can play. Notre Dame also could play an ACC team in the Orange Bowl in some years."We needed a soup-to-nuts solution for the postseason and we have achieved it," Swarbrick said.ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the deal helps the league as well because it will re-negotiate its recent ESPN contract worth 3.6 billion to account for Notre Dame's arrival. Notre Dame will keep its broadcast partnership with NBC and won't receive TV revenue for other ACC football games.Swarbrick said he thinks Notre Dame's move to the ACC might stabilize all the changes going on among conferences."I think this gives us a real chance that we are going to have a period ahead of us now in college athletics which is going to be pretty stable," he said. "That would be one of the nicest possible legacies if five years from now we look back on this deal and say, You know what, that ushered in a period of where we focused on what was going on on the field and not what was going on in the AD's office in college sports. I think it will."

Penn's only sack allowed last season got Carr hurt; 'That play sticks with me'

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Penn's only sack allowed last season got Carr hurt; 'That play sticks with me'

Donald Penn was nothing short of awesome last season. The veteran Raiders left tackle proved impenetrable, allowing just one sack and 27 quarterback pressures in 676 pass-blocking snaps.

He ranked high among the NFL’s best left tackles at 33, engulfed a career renaissance that began after joining the Raiders three years ago. Penn made the Pro Bowl. He was a vital piece of a 12-4 team that helped the Raiders reach the playoffs.

He hasn’t reveled much in that. Penn’s driven by opportunities missed, and one mishap that haunts him still.

Penn locked horns with Indianapolis linebacker Trent Cole off the left edge during a Week 16 contest against the Colts, and slipped as he was tracking his man away from the pocket. Penn’s feet got tangled and the big man fell. Cole remained upright, darted in and sacked quarterback Derek Carr.

It was Penn’s only sack allowed all season. And Carr got hurt. He suffered a broken fibula that ended his season and realistic hopes of a Raiders playoff run.

Nearly five months have passed since that fluke play. Carr is healthy and a full participant in the Raiders offseason program. The Raiders offensive line might be better after allowing a league-low 18 sacks last season.

There’s plenty to be excited about as the Raiders enter OTAs and a mandatory minicamp. Penn can’t help but lament that isolated incident when Carr went down.

“You have to be an athlete. You try not to think about it too much,” Penn said Tuesday. “You wish you could go back and get it back. I’ve taken that same set I don’t know how many times, on the same field and never just slipped out of nowhere. I’m not going to put it on myself. I should have been able to do something better. You know me, I’m never going to blame the slip for happening. I should have blocked him and held on to him and taken him down with me. That play sticks with me.”

That isn’t all bad. It fuels Penn to continue growing as a player, even at 34 coming off an excellent Pro Bowl season.

“I’m going to try to do what I can do better and make sure it never happens again,” Penn said. “I’ve never gotten a quarterback hurt in my life since I’ve been playing. That was a first. That’s something I take pride in. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Penn wants a different ending to this season. Last year the Raiders lost the AFC West crown and a shot to win the team’s first playoff game. Penn suffered a knee injury the following week that kept him from playing in the postseason.

The goal is to realize vast potential now that the Raiders offense is back healthy again.

“I’m all about karma and stuff like that,” Penn said. “Maybe (God is) trying to tell us that this is our year. We have to put in the work to get it. I know D.C. is happy, I’m dang sure happy to get him back. We’re growing and masterminding this offense trying to make it as explosive as possible.”

Mariners designate former Giants pitcher for assignment

Mariners designate former Giants pitcher for assignment

CHICAGO -- Chris Heston was hopeful a move to a new organization could give his career a jolt. It hasn't worked out that way.

The former Giant was designated for assignment on Wednesday by the Mariners, who earlier acquired an outfielder from the Astros and needed the roster spot. Heston was traded to Seattle at the winter meetings for a player to be named later. The Giants have not yet picked that player off a list the teams agreed to.

Heston had a 3.95 ERA as a starter for the Giants in 2015 and threw a no-hitter at Citi Field, but he had trouble transitioning to relief the next season and dealt with an injury in Triple-A. Needing a roster spot in December, the Giants traded him.

Heston started Sunday for Seattle and gave up six earned runs in three innings. He allowed five earned in two innings in his previous appearance.