Speed Read: Hero Vandy Coach Turns Down Raise

It’s hard to get too misty-eyed about the integrity of college sports when coaches are dealing with sex scandals, players are getting arrested on a daily basis and Yahoo! Sports is ready to let loose with the blockbuster news that a USC football player might have received an extra large slice of apple pie at the cafeteria because he’s on the team. But then you hear about things like the following story and you remember why you cry like a girl every time “Rudy” is on.

Kevin Stallings, hero

Vanderbilt head basketball coach Kevin Stallings had been planning a 10-day trip for his basketball team to Australia for well over a year when he learned that school wide budget cuts threatened to nix the trip. So what did Stallings do? He decided to decline the $100,000 raise he was owed by the school in order to pay for the journey. The team played OK - going 3-2 in five games - but I would imagine that the benefits go much further than that. Plus, how do you not play hard for a guy who gave up $100,000 so you could go to Australia?

“Jermaine, remember when you got to feed that kangaroo straight from your hand? Then how about screening out your man?”

Jarvis Varnado

This comes on the heels of Mississippi State’s star basketball player Jarvis Varnado giving up his scholarship so the team could sign more players. That’s two totally selfless acts involving SEC basketball in the space of less than a week, which is probably more than we saw all of last season. Sometimes its good to be reminded that sports are supposed to be, you know, uplifting.

West Ham hooligan

Meanwhile, just to cut the legs out from under you as you’re actually starting to feel good about sports again: look, British football hooligans are back! I guess if The Specials are touring again, then it really is like 1982 in London, which apparently means it’s time for pitch invasions, fights in the stands and undoing 25 years of progress toward making soccer in England respectable again.

The trouble came in a Carling Cup match between rivals West Ham and Millwall. West Ham won the game in extra time, 3-1, but the story was the “fans” of the two teams. One man was stabbed and at least 10 people were arrested in what appeared to be planned brawls outside of the stadium before and after the game. Plus, West Ham fans staged a “pitch invasion,” storming the field after West Ham scored the go-ahead goal early in extra time, forcing the match to be delayed for several minutes and riot squads to escort the visiting Millwall players off the field for their own safety.

I’m guessing this isn’t exactly what ESPN was hoping for when they paid for the partial rights to cover EPL games this season. Although I’d like to see the “ESPN Axis” technology be used to highlight some hooligan taking a dart to the eye - let’s see Tommy Smyth put that one in the old onion bag. (Also, it should be noted that the Carling Cup is about as important as winning the Cactus League title - I shudder to think what things will be like by the end of the season.)

Floyd Landis

Speaking of awful people, we have a Floyd Landis sighting. Even though he’s was stripped of his Tour de France title for doping offenses, he’s got at least one cycling team who would consider hiring him. And of course it’s with Lance Armstrong’s new team. Really, were you expecting anything else? Armstrong had been out of the headlines for a whole three or four weeks, and we can’t have that. P.S.: Have fun with that sponsorship, Radio Shack.

Sen. Ted Kennedy will be remembered for…

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Speed Read: “Desperate” Plax Faces Grand Jury

As we speak, Plaxico Burress is preparing to testify before a grand jury in Manhattan about shooting himself in the leg last year. And those of you with some familiarity with the legal system might have this reaction to that news: uhhh, wha?

Plaxico Burress

(”I saved the world from having to deal with 19-0. Doesn’t that count for something?”)

In a move that ESPN’s Lester Munson is calling “desperate” and “highly unusual,” Burress will subject himself to questioning in an effort to get the grand jury to consider lesser charges than the felony that is currently on the table. It’s rare for a lawyer to allow this to happen because it can backfire in so many ways. For one, Plax has to be very careful about what he says. If any statement he makes ends up not being true, he could find a perjury charge added to whatever else he’s facing. And, since the prosecutors can ask anything they want, if Burress is forthcoming with every detail, he could basically end up admitting his guilt. Although, as one ESPN commenter noted, Burress really only needs to be asked three questions:

1. Did you have a gun in your possession when you shot yourself?
2. Do you have a permit to have that gun?
3. Do you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in New York?

If the answer is “yes” to #1 and “no” to the other two questions, that’s basically all they need to make their decision.

Lester Munson

(Things aren’t going well if this guy’s talking about you)

So why do it? Munson and fellow analyst Roger Cossack seem to think that Burress’ lawer, Benjamin Brafman, might be using this as a means to encourage a plea bargain. But Munson says that they don’t have any leverage here, since they’re the ones facing all the downside related to Burress’ testimony. The term “bluff” is being thrown around, but what’s the bluff? Why would the D.A. be worried about Plax testifying?

The only reasonable theory being offered is that maybe Plax can charm the jurors into thinking he’s a good guy who didn’t know the law and just wanted to protect himself. But he’ll have to do all of this without his lawyer, who won’t be allowed into the courtroom.

On Monday, Manhattan D.A. Jack McCoy Robert Morgenthau spoke publicly about the case, saying that Plax was OK with doing a year in jail, but that the people won’t accept a deal that involves less than two years in the clink. Morgenthau even suggested that he’s looking at charging Antonio Pierce for his role in the incident, something Cossack claims was “out of bounds” for the D.A. to talk about publicly, and certainly meant to bait Burress into a deal.

None of this looks particularly good, and one wonders if that two-year deal from the D.A. is still on the table. And I think it’s safe to say it would be the worst two-year deal any NFL free agent would be signing this year.

Robert Morgenthau

(When the guy with the huge ears says you’re doing time, you’re doing time)

Mark Buehrle made his first start since his perfect game, and for an hour and a half or so at the Metrodome, the awesome gift-giver looked like he might have a legitimate shot at the utterly unthinkable. Buehrle retired the first 17 Twins he faced on Tuesday night, before it finally all fell apart and he gave up five runs and five hits.

Despite the eventual unraveling, Buehrle set a major league record by sending down 45 consecutive batters. That’s 15 consecutive innings without allowing a baserunner. The previous record was 41, held by two players, including Buehrle’s teammate, Bobby Jenks (who did it in three-batter increments as a closer).

Mark Buehrle White Sox

Elsewhere around baseball, Ichiro did something he’d never done before — end a game with a hit. That’s right, none of his previous 1,952 hits were of the walk-off variety, by far the longest such active streak in baseball. To give you an idea, Alex Cora now holds the active record for most hits without a walk-off at 742.

Ichiro Suzuki Seattle Mariners

(”You know, maybe if you didn’t have Yuniesky Betancourt hitting in front of me for four years I would’ve done it once or twice.”)

It’s been a good year for the Dodgers, but things took a turn for the embarrassing when Mark Loretta had to come on to pitch with two outs in the eighth inning at L.A. trailing 10-0 to the Cardinals. Loretta was the first position player to pitch in a game for the Dodgers since 2004, and after drilling Matt Holliday with a fastball he got Ryan Ludwick to fly out to end the inning. In other words, he did way better than Chien-Ming Wang had done this year. The Yankees finally Old Yellered him and are sending him to have surgery that can’t possibly make him any worse. Wang’s future with the Yanks is in doubt, as the team must offer him at least $4 million to keep him next year or lose him to free agency.

Chien-Ming Wang  cheerleader

Jessica Simpson is no longer welcome in Tony Romo’s neighborhood. She’s taking the high road, though, by not asking Romo to give her back the boat she bought him.

• Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen isn’t anywhere near the man he used to be. He’s much less. 95 pounds worth, to be exact.

• Because everyone’s been asking for it, here are those long-awaited highlights of the touch football game played by NFL legends before Super Bowl X in 1976. If you’ve ever wanted to see Paul Hornung make a gay joke, watch a bunch of guys try and cop a feel on Phyllis George, and hear why Johnny Unitas likes to drive Pontiacs, look no further:

As you can see, Bill Murray and Christopher Guest had nowhere to go but up.

• OK, Jason Marquis has been pretty good this year, but the DENVER POST’s Mark Kiszla has to settle down. Kiszla says that because Marquis has been on a heater for 19 starts this year that he deserves a long-term contract from the Rockies. Because those other nine years Marquis pitched must have been some kind of aberration.

• BASKETBAWFUL wonders why it’s so hard to keep score of a pickup basketball game, despite using the theoretically easier 1-point/2-point scoring system.

• DEADSPIN has the strangest overreaction to the whole Erin Andrews mess that has been published so far.

• Yes, this is in fact Garth Brooks tossing a coin into his own face before an international soccer match (TMZ is covering something other than Michael Jackson these days):

Garth Brooks tossing coin into own face

Homeless man starts passing notes to Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby. Penguins win Stanley Cup. Coincidence?

• The Cowboys will play at the Chiefs on October 11th in Kansas City, and the home team will be wearing a helmet with a big picture of Texas on it.

Vin Scully has announced that next season — his 61st as broadcaster for the Dodgers — will be his last.

• And just because we can, here’s some pictures of Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis getting ready to kiss each other:

Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis

Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis

Cowboys #9 Ladies Jersey Perfect Romo-antic Gift For All of Tonys Female Friends

• While getting a jump start on Xmas shopping, we’ve come across the perfect Romo-antic gift for Carrie, Jessica, Sophia, and Britney - Tony’s Cowboys jersey for the ladies:

Tony Romo Ladies Jersey

• Now that the NFL season is at it’s midpoint, GHOSTS OF WAYNE FONTES warns about fantasy leagues turning into nightmares, due to lazy last-place members.• 100% INJURY RATE plays the name game, as many Chinese children have been christened “Olympics“.

• LARRY BROWN SPORTS snorts a sad farewell to racketeer Martina Hingis:

Martina Hingis behind

• GOING FIVE HOLE kicks it old school, as the Penguins & Sabres look to be going retro for their own Ice Bowl.• THE ANGRY T weighs in on their choices for the NFL All-Fat Team.

• Speaking of big issues, BIG TEN TAILGATE reviews which corpulent college coaches were livin’ large on Saturday:

Mark Mangino pointing

• VEGAS WATCH is ashamed of the New England Patriots. This is the first week Tom Brady & pals didn’t cover the spread.• THE 700 LEVEL gets an earful from Terrell Owens, who says the Philly Eagles were better off with him.

• With the college basketball season underway, STORMING THE FLOOR is loudly asking, “Where’s Dick Vitale?”

• FOOTBALL JESUS LAS VEGAS couldn’t duck all the ESPN Gameday signs at Autzen Stadium over the weekend.• DEUCE OF DAVENPORT calls the movers, as ex-Redskins player Dexter Manley offers to pay your rent.

Martina Hingis Denies Cocaine Use Despite Positive Drug Test At Wimbledon

FROM THE BATHROOM STALL AT HINGIS RETIREMENT PARTY: You probably just hit your favorite conglomo sports media site and read the hed that has now-retired Martina Hingis admitting she tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon:

ESPN Hingis Cocaine Headline

But how many folks do you think will only see the headline and never read on in the story, where Hingis denies she ever took the drug?