Ricardo “Rick” Valverde-Duran Sr, 41, passed away on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Viewing will be Sunday, July 23, 2017, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The funeral service will be held on Monday, July 24, 2017, at 2 p.m., at Anderson-Bethany Funeral Home Chapel. Interment will follow service at South Park Cemetery. A tribute of Ricardo’s life may be found at andersonbethany.com where you may leave memories and expressions of sympathy for his family.
On June 16, 1976, Ricardo “Rick” Valverde Sr. was born to Alfonso Valverde and Elvira Duran. Rick was a longtime resident of Roswell, NM. A hard worker and good provider, Rick worked for several dairies for many years. Rick’s most treasured memories were when he was with his family and children, he adored them more than life itself. He loved to dance and listen to his favorite Spanish music. Rick had the gift of the gab, an engaging personality and was always going out of his way to help friends and family. He had the most vibrant laugh and an unforgettable smile that made him stand out in a crowd. Rick was loved by so many and brought happiness and laughter everywhere he went. Family and friends will miss his sarcasm, infectious laughter and wisecracks.
Those left to cherish Ricardo’s memory are his son, Ricardo Valverde Jr; daughters: Corina Valverde, Cassandra Valverde; grandchildren: Sofia Marie Gamboa, Yenesis Valverde, Zavier Rey Gamboa; parents: Alfonso Valverde and Elvira Valverde; God-parents: Peter Blanco and Socorro Blanco; brothers: Jose Valverde, Alfonso Jr. Valverde, Saul Valverde; sisters: Irma Cardenas and husband, Raul Cardenas Sr, Maria Duran and husband, Jose Martinez, Joanna Valverde and boyfriend, Alex Thompson, Liliana Fabela; nephews: Raul Cardenas Jr., Ismael Martinez; nieces: Lizet Cardenas, Mariela Martinez, Jennifer Martinez, Monique Valverde, Molly Ledesma, Naomi Ledesma, Cecilia Thompson, and Clarissa Valverde.
Preceding Ricardo in death are his granddaughter, Yesenia Valverde; and nephew, Josue Martinez.
Pallbearers are: Ricardo Valverde Jr., Raul Cardenas Sr., Raul Cardenas Jr., Jose Martinez, Valente Ruiz Sr. and Alfonso Valverde Jr.
Ricardo “Rick” Valverde-Duran Sr, 41, passed away on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Viewing will be Sunday, July 23, 2017, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The funeral service will be held on Monday, July 24, 2017, at 2 p.m., at Anderson-Bethany Funeral Home Chapel. Interment will follow service at South Park Cemetery. A tribute of Ricardo’s life may be found at andersonbethany.com where you may leave memories and expressions of sympathy for his family.
Judy Scholz, 77, of Roswell, died July 12 at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center. She was surrounded by the love and prayers of friends as she was removed from life support earlier in the day, then quietly and peacefully left her earthly troubles behind.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Judy had early musical training that ultimately resulted in her earning a master’s degree and becoming an accomplished musician. Her career as organist and choir director took her to churches in the Midwest and South. She came to Roswell in 1990 to serve as musician for First Presbyterian Church. In 1993, she began as organist for St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, a position she held for more than fifteen years.
Judy lived alone with her beloved dogs until a stroke in 2015 necessitated a move to Casa Maria. She missed her independence and her dogs, and was pleased to know the dogs were living with a friend, who would bring them to Casa Maria to visit her.
Judy’s church family is thankful for all who have helped in her care, especially the staff of Casa Maria. Her music ministry was a blessing to many, and many have blessed her with their ministries of love and care.
A memorial service celebrating her life and mourning her death will be at 10:30 a.m. July 22, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 2911 N. Main St., Roswell. Lunch will follow in the fellowship hall. Interment in St. Mark’s Memorial Garden will take place at a future date.
A. Elaine Smith passed away on Monday, July 17, 2017, at UMC in Lubbock, TX.
Elaine was a loving mother, sister, aunt and grandmother. She is survived by her children: Shawn Longan of Denver, CO, John Smith of Barberton, OH, Connie Miller of Cambridge, OH, Jeri House of Roswell, NM, Karl Longan of Cambridge, OH; grandchildren: Donovan Longan, Jeffrey, Ryan, Jordan and Jocelynn Miller, Emma Longan; several nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews; brothers: Earl Smith, David Smith; and sister, Beatrice Forman. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jerry Smith; son, Donald Longan; mother, Lois Couey; father, Donald Hinson; and sister, Faith Smith. A tribute of Elaine’s life may be found at andersonbethany.com where you may leave memories and expressions of sympathy for her family.
An incredibly creative person, Elaine was master of repurposing objects to reflect their beauty. She enjoyed gardening, farming, sewing, cooking and baking. Elaine was always seeking knowledge and willing to share her knowledge. She was a wonderful mother who taught her children how to take care of themselves by sharing her knowledge of all the things they would need to make their way in this world. Elaine was a fiercely loyal friend, and she will be missed by all of us.
Funeral services will be on Monday, July 24, 2017, at 10 a.m., at the Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints. A graveside service will follow at Hagerman Cemetery at 11:30 a.m.
Flowers can be sent to Anderson-Bethany Funeral Home.
This tribute was lovingly written in honor of Elaine by her family.
Idella (Sparks) (Hebert) Davis passed away Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson-Bethany Funeral Home and Crematory. A further announcement will follow when arrangements are finalized.
In his letter published in the RDR’s July 9 edition, John Yates expressed his concern of the undermining of our energy security by the dumping of light crude by the OPEC nations.
While his concerns are valid from the oil producers’ point of view, I would like to offer my view as a concerned citizen that our dependency on Middle East crude is a real threat to our energy security, our national security and to our personal safety. Our dependency on any foreign crude is a threat to our long-term overall security.
In 2016, we imported some 8 million barrels daily. This amounts to roughly $130 billion, which is 25 percent of our entire 2016 trade deficit. This money could have been more wisely invested in our own nation by American companies building and installing renewable energy installations while providing economic growth, and much-needed high paying jobs for American workers.
According to Osama bin Laden, the reason for the 9/11 terrorist attacks were our military troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, which is considered the most holy land of Muslim nations. The following so-called War on Terror was, in many respects, the most unnecessary and wasteful war ever fought in the history of our nation.
The threat of terrorism is even greater today, and with virtually no improvement in our energy security.
The defense of our Middle East petroleum interests have been extremely costly in human life and suffering as well as in the tax dollars used to support the three wars over the past 30 years. The loss of lives and the $4 to $6 trillion spent have produced no real positive results.
Since 2003, we have imported roughly 8 billion barrels of Middle East crude. Considering the war cost of $4 trillion, this amounts to an estimated $500 per barrel. The total cost in American lives and tax dollars is far more than I was willing to pay.
Had we invested even $500 billion in research, development and installation of renewable energy systems rather than war, our nation would be energy independent today. It is time to invest in America’s long-term energy future rather than war.
Why does the mayor go to other states to get an agency to hire a city manager? Roswell has very qualified people to fill the position.
Jean Snyder is a very brilliant lady; Barbara Patterson, a lawyer; Ken Wilson, a lawyer; all qualify, and a lot more.
Does the city pay for the mayor’s expenses when he goes? He apparently has not looked in his own town for someone. I am suggesting to the voters when it is election time, let’s “drain the swamp” and get rid of all the councilors and mayor and start everyone new.
We need residential streets repaired, so many have holes and cracks. There are houses that need to be torn down, on Tilden Street and Washington Avenue for one. The mayor probably never drives down these streets if he is in town.
We did not need a swimming pool, there are five swimming pools already here.
The New Mexico Senior Olympics State Summer Games take place at the Balloon Fiesta Park. Spectators can watch athletes compete in huachas, soccer accuracy, softball distance and shuffleboard. There will be also a Sport Health Fair Expo with free health screenings. For details, visit nmseniorolympics.org or call 575-623-5777.
Rally In The Weeds
Every year the little town of Weeds turns into the center of attention during its annual Rally In The Weeds. There will be live bands, DJs, food and retail vendors, as well as mud bogs. The town of Weeds is located eight miles West of Artesia on Highway 82. For more information, visit its Facebook event page.
Early Days gas engine and tractor show
The Pecos Valley Classic AG Tractor Club is hosting the 2017 Early Days Gas Engine & Tractor Association Southwest regional show at the Eddy County Fairgrounds. There will be antique tractors, machinery and engines from all over the Southwestern United States. Interested individuals can get further information from the Club website, at classicag.org or by contacting Ralf Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruidoso Wine and Art Festival
Starting this year a handful of New Mexico wineries are joining the festival. There are different choices for tickets. The tickets that include the wine tasting also includes a free wine glass and free tastings at each vendor. One hundred of the nation’s most talented artists will be showcasing a broad spectrum of mediums including sculpture, photography, glass, paintings, ceramics, jewelry and mixed media.
This year there will be a variety of new artists participating in the show. The festival takes place at the Ruidoso Convention Center, 111 Sierra Blanca Drive. For more information, visit ruidosonow.com.
July 21, 31, Aug. 5, 8, 12, 16 and 24
“Lucia di Lammermoor”
The Santa Fe Opera presents, Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” Beauty and darkness collide in this bel canto masterpiece. The opera is sung in Italian with opera titles in English and Spanish. This is a new Santa fe Opera Production. The opera is located at 301 Opera Drive. For more information and tickets, visit santafeopera.org or call its box office at 800-280-4654.
National Day of the Cowboy
Artesia Arts Council invites the public to celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy at the First American Bank Parking lot, 303 Main St. There will be craft and food vendors, music and prizes. Learn how to rope and meet cowboy poet, W.C. Jameson at Bennie’s Western Wear. The festivities start at 9 a.m. and go until 4 p.m. A show with W.C. Jameson follows at the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center, 310 W. Main St., at 7 p.m. Tickets for the evening show are $20. For more information, visit artesiaartscouncil.com or call 575-746-4212.
Free Family Fun Day
The Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1 Thunderbird Circle, invites the public to a free Family Fun Day — Summer of Love celebration — to remember the 50th anniversary of the summer of 1967 in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Families can enjoy crafts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., including a tie-dye station with tie-dye bandanas for the first 200 people, a love-bead making station, face painting, mural painting, flower-making and at 2 p.m., the movie “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” will be shown. For more information, visit nmjc.edu/museum or call 575-492-2678.
July 24-July 29
Eddy County Fair
The 72nd annual Eddy County Fair takes place at the Eddy County Fairgrounds, 3402 S. 13th St. June 30 was the deadline for 4-H inside exhibits, 4-H and FFA livestock forms. Bull riding will take place at 8 p.m. on July 28. The carnival is open each day from 5 p.m. There will be a dance on July 27 and 28 starting at 8:30 p.m. On July 28 a Chili Cook-off takes place at 4 p.m.
2017 Downtown Sounds: Battle of the Bands
As part of the 2017 Downtown Sounds Summer Concert Series, the Lea County Commission for the Arts, Hobbs Hispano Chamber of Commerce, Hobbs Chamber of Commerce and City of Hobbs present, Battle of the Bands, from noon to 7 p.m. Six band compete for prizes. A large part of the judging will be based on crowd participation. Winner will get free studio recording time at the New Mexico Junior College’s new musical technology studio, as well as the opportunity to perform during the 2017 Hobbs August Nites Downtown Sounds Summer Concert. For more information, visit lccanm.org or call 575-397-2787.
Warrant and Winger in concert
Warrant and Winger are going to rock the Inn of the Mountain Gods, 287 Carrizo Canyon Road, at 8 p.m. Warrant is a metal band formed in 1984 in Hollywood, which experienced success with five albums reaching international sales of over 10 million. The band first came into the national spotlight with their two times platinum debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich and one of its singles, “Heaven,” reached No. 1 in Rolling Stone and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band continued its success in the early 1990s with the two-time platinum album Cherry Pie, which provided the hit album titled song and music video. Winger is a rock band that has combined elements of glam metal and progressive metal. Formed in New York City, Winger gained popularity with two platinum albums, Winger and In the Heart of the Young, along with charting singles “Seventeen,” “Headed for a Heartbreak” and “Miles Away,” put the band on the top of the charts by the early 1990s. In 1990, the band was nominated for an American Music Award for “Best New Heavy Metal Band.” Tickets start at $25. Minors must be accompanied by an adult. For more information and tickets, visit innofthemountaingods.com.
Old Lincoln Days
The Old Lincoln Days include “The Last Escape of Billy the Kid” at the pageant grounds next to the museum. Their will be also free wagon rides in the village, arts and crafts, music and colorful characters from the wild days when Lincoln was the center of the Lincoln County War. For more information, visit billythekidpageant.com.
Aug. 7 – 12
Missoula Children’s Theatre “Peter and Wendy”
Due to the popularity of the Aladdin-Missoula Children’s Theatre Camp, a second camp was added. Children who have registered for “Aladdin” are welcome to register for “Peter and Wendy” as well. Participation fee is $65 and includes a T-shirt, one Love Note (additional Love Notes, $2) and lunch for all participants on Friday and Saturday. It is open to all school age children 5 years and up. Rehearsals are from Aug. 5 – 11, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Performance is Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. To register or for more information, call the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center at 575-746-4212.
The Zuni Show 2017: Art of the Pueblo
The Zuni Show 2017 takes place at the Scottish Rite Temple, Aug. 19 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Aug. 20, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Zuni is the largest of the pueblos in New Mexico and most of the Zunis’ income is from the sale of their artwork. This second annual show expands exposure to the public, and once again artists will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from their sales. This is a fair trade event. Ethnographic films from 1924 depicting the Zunis’ past will be screened continually in the auditorium of the Scottish Rite facility. For more information, to donate or to volunteer, call Robin Dunlap at 505-660-0981 or visit TheKeshiFoundation.org.
Red Dirt Black Gold Festival
The free all-day festival takes place downtown Artesia and celebrates the oil and gas industry. This year’s concert lineup is as follows: Whiskey Myers, Bri Bagwell, Dalton Domino, The Statesboro Revue and Callahan Divide. For more information, visit artesiaacd.com or call 575-746-4212.
San Jose 52 Family Fair
The San Jose Catholic Church Carlsbad, 1002 Debaca St. is hosting its San Jose 52 Family Fair. Doors open on Aug. 25 at noon and on Aug. 26 at 11 a.m. Music will be provided by Michael Salgado and La Sombra. For more information, call 575-885-5792.
Ongoing until Sept. 25
Owls in the Land of Enchantment
Revered and feared in folklore, owls are found throughout New Mexico. From open desert to mountain forest, these powerful hunters have evolved extraordinary senses to pinpoint their prey. For a limited engagement, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Road NW, reveals this world in the Owls in the Land of Enchantment exhibition. For more information, call 505-841-2800.
CINCINNATI (AP) — Jake Lamb didn’t know about Arizona’s late pitching change until an hour before the game. His two homers made it a moot point.
Arizona stabilized itself by taking two of three in the series. The Diamondbacks had dropped eight of nine heading into the set, falling behind Colorado for the second NL wild-card spot.
“It seems like our offense is starting to heat up again, which is good,” said Corbin, who pitched a season-high 7 1/3 innings.
Lamb homered in the first inning off Luis Castillo (1-3) and again in the ninth for a career-high six RBIs. Gregor Blanco and Ketel Marte added two-run shots as the Diamondbacks concluded a wacky series.
They won the opener 11-2 while getting outfielder J.D. Martinez in a trade with Detroit. A day later, Martinez got hit on the left hand by a pitch in his Diamondbacks debut and left with a bruise. He didn’t play in the finale.
Scheduled starter Taijuan Walker was scratched after his wife, Heather, went into labor early Thursday morning. Corbin (7-9) was moved up a day and wound up with his first victory since June 16. The left-hander had gone 0-3 in his previous five starts.
Corbin got a phone call informing him of the switch just as he was about to fall asleep.
“It took me longer to fall asleep,” he said. “It’s a different feeling when you’re pitching the next day.”
Corbin gave up seven hits, including Eugenio Suarez’s homer. The left-hander pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-outs threat in the fourth to hold the lead.
“I’m so proud of the guys fighting through very difficult circumstances in the last few games,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “Nobody did better than Patrick Corbin.”
Suarez homered again off J.J. Hoover in the eighth. Cincinnati fell to 1-6 since the All-Star break — all at home. The Reds allowed 10 or more runs in four of them.
“The problem is clear,” manager Bryan Price said. “Unfortunately, we’ve given up double figures in runs in four of these games. That’s the constant thing. We need to pitch better. It’s a worn-out record. I’m tired of talking about it.”
ANOTHER NEW LOOK
Lovullo went with a different batting order for the second game in a row, giving his reserves a chance to play in a day game coming off an 11-inning night game. “In this case we’ve got guys who have been sitting on the bench watching and they’re fully energized,” he said.
Billy Hamilton doubled in the first inning and was thrown out by catcher Chris Iannetta while trying to steal third. It was the second time in two games that Hamilton was caught stealing. He’s been caught seven times and has stolen 40 bases, most in the majors.
GOING, GOING …
The Reds have given up 166 homers, the most in the majors. They’re on pace to break their major league record of 258 allowed last season.
Paul Goldschmidt went 0 for 5 with four strikeouts, ending his hitting streak at 11 games. It also ended his road hitting streak at 17 games, one shy of the Diamondbacks record.
Walker was placed on paternity leave, and RHP Matt Koch was recalled from Triple-A Reno. Lovullo will rearrange his weekend pitching plans with Walker gone, and he might use Koch to start one game.
Diamondbacks: Martinez was out of the lineup with the bruised hand, sustained in his second at-bat on Wednesday night. “A crazy 24 hours,” he called it while headed to get treatment on Thursday morning.
Reds: SS Zack Cozart got a day to rest. He missed time last month because of a strained right thigh that is not fully healed.
Diamondbacks: Arizona opens a three-game series Friday against visiting Washington. The Diamondbacks lost two of three at Nationals Park in May and are 3-7 against the Washington during the last two seasons.
Reds: Homer Bailey (2-3) faces Jose Urena (7-4) when the Reds open a home series Friday against Miami. Bailey makes his sixth start since returning from elbow surgery. He gave up eight runs in four-plus innings of a 14-4 loss to the Nationals last weekend.
BOSTON (AP) — Steve Pearce blooped the ball to the edge of the outfield grass, and Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt was there.
He planted his feet. He raised his arm to catch it.
But something wasn’t quite right.
Holt lost the ball in the sun, allowing it to glance off his glove for a two-run single that tied the game as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied from an early deficit to take the lead for good and hold on to beat the Boston Red Sox 8-6 on Thursday.
“As weakly as I hit it, I didn’t” expect it to fall, said Pearce, who had three hits. “When you put the ball in the air, sometimes (the fielder) just can’t do it. Day game, clear sky. It was a great time for it.”
Ryan Goins followed with a two-run single to give the Blue Jays the lead. Justin Smoak homered twice, but it was a 140-foot duck snort that turned things around and allowed Toronto to leave Boston with a split in the four-game series.
“I don’t care how hard it’s hit, it’s a two-RBI knock. Then Goins comes right behind me, keeps things rolling,” said Pearce, whose team lost nine of the first 10 games of the season and haven’t been above fourth place since. “We’ve had a lot of things going against us, so it’s nice to finally have something go for us.”
Dustin Pedroia had three hits, including a three-run homer, while serving as designated hitter on a 90-degree day at the end of a grinding homestand. Including the 15-inning game on Tuesday with Toronto, the AL East-leading Red Sox played 76 innings in about 144 hours — the equivalent of 8 1/2 games in six days.
But it was the sun more than the heat that was the problem, especially for the right fielders and anyone else who tried to field a popup.
“During day games it’s always pretty bad for the right side of the field — second basemen, right field,” Holt said. “It was one of those balls that wasn’t really high enough where I could do anything to move myself and maneuver myself to get that out of the sun. … I tried to stay with it as long as I could and unfortunately couldn’t make the play. So that one’s on me.”
Dominic Leone (2-0) earned the win. Toronto starter Francisco Liriano got just five outs, allowing three runs in the second, but the Blue Jays came back with four in the third to take a 5-3 lead against Doug Fister (0-4).
Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his 24th save.
Smoak has 26 homers and 62 RBIs this season. His previous career highs were 20 and 59.
“We still have 2 1/2 more months left in the season so I just try to keep my head down and keep going,” he said.
Smoak’s RBI single in the sixth gave Toronto a 7-3 lead, then Pedroia’s homer in the seventh made it a one-run game. Smoak added his second homer in the ninth.
Mookie Betts had two hits and two RBIs for Boston.
Liriano gave up three runs — two earned — five hits and a walk, striking out one. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon, and Betts scored two with a single to give Boston a 3-1 lead in the second.
But the Blue Jays came back with four in the third, when Fister walked four batters and also gave up run-scoring singles to Pearce and Goins. Fister allowed six runs, seven hits and four walks, striking out three in 4 1/3 innings.
Goins ended the fifth inning when he raised his bat to protect himself from an inside pitch and wound up grounding it back to reliever Fernando Abad. Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman signaled a fair ball, Abad made the casual throw to first, and Hanley Ramirez, seemingly confused, paused before stepping on the base. Goins remained on his knees in the batter’s box, smiling, long after the rest of the players cleared the field.
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez left Wednesday night’s game with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
Red Sox: Leon was hit in the left foot by Russell Martin’s foul tip in the fourth inning. The training staff came out to look at it, and the Boston catcher remained in the game.
Blue Jays: Marco Estrada (4-6) faces Trevor Bauer (7-8) in the opener of a three-game series against Cleveland.
Red Sox: Chris Sale (11-4) will start the opener of a three game series against the Angels, facing Ricky Nolasco (4-10).
Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze has resigned after five seasons, bringing a stunning end to a once-promising tenure.
The school confirmed Freeze’s resignation in a release Thursday night. Assistant Matt Luke has been named the interim coach. A press conference was scheduled for late Thursday.
The Rebels had a quick rise under Freeze, recruiting at a high level and reaching an apex with a Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State following the 2015 season.
But an NCAA investigation — alleging 21 charges of academic, booster, and recruiting misconduct — has overshadowed much of that success, especially over the past year. The school has already self-imposed several penalties, including a one-year postseason ban for the upcoming season.
Freeze — who was making more than $5 million per year — had a 39-25 record over five seasons, including a 19-21 mark in the Southeastern Conference.
The 47-year-old Freeze’s shocking exit — just a few weeks before preseason camp begins — completes a stunning fall for a coach considered one of the profession’s rising stars a few years ago.
Freeze took over after Houston Nutt was fired during a miserable 2011 season that ended with a 2-10 record. Ole Miss immediately improved under Freeze, finishing 7-6 in 2012 and winning the Birmingham Bowl.
The Rebels continued to surge on the field and on the recruiting trail over the next several seasons. They signed some of the nation’s top recruits in 2013, including defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, receiver Laquon Treadwell and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. They helped push the program to eight wins in 2013, nine in ’14 and a 10-3 record in ’15.
But Ole Miss’ newfound ability to recruit at a high level drew the attention of the NCAA, which was already investigating the school for a handful of violations that occurred during Nutt’s tenure.
The school has received two Notice of Allegations letters from the NCAA over the past two years. The first alleged 13 rules violations, including nine that were classified as Level I, which the governing body deems the most serious.
But the case expanded in April 2016 after Tunsil became the story of the NFL draft after a bizarre video of him smoking from a gas mask-bong contraption was posted on his Twitter account just before the selections began.
There was also a post on Tunsil’s Instagram account showing an alleged text conversation with a football staff member about arranging payment for bills.
Though the NCAA didn’t appear to find much from that particular exchange, the governing body did reopen its investigation, sending a second NOA earlier this year that expanded the case to 21 allegations, including 17 that are Level I.
Freeze, a north Mississippi native, had an unlikely rise to major college coaching, spending about a decade as a successful high school coach in Memphis, Tennessee, before landing a job at Ole Miss in the mid-2000s under Ed Orgeron. After Orgeron was fired in 2007, Freeze became the head coach at Lambuth, a tiny NAIA school in western Tennessee.
He became Arkansas State’s offensive coordinator in 2010 and was promoted to head coach in 2011, leading the Red Wolves to a Sun Belt Conference title before being hired at Ole Miss.
Freeze’s specialty was on offense and the Rebels were especially efficient on that side of the ball. Behind quarterbacks like Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly, Ole Miss was consistently one of the best schools in the SEC through the air.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee doesn’t mind adopting an underdog mentality a year after the Volunteers failed to meet preseason expectations.
The Volunteers have been picked to finish third in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division by the league’s media. They didn’t have any first-team selections on the media’s preseason all-SEC team.
One year ago, Tennessee was the preseason East favorite but ended up splitting its eight conference games.
“Right now we’re in the weeds,” senior safety Todd Kelly Jr. said. “Nobody’s really seeing us, almost like a snake in the grass. Our goal is to end up biting somebody at the end of the day and making them pay.”
Tennessee will open preseason practice on July 29 needing to find a quarterback to replace Joshua Dobbs, who started 35 games over the last four seasons. It must find a new pass rusher following the loss of Philadelphia Eagles first-round draft pick Derek Barnett, the school’s all-time career sack leader.
But the Vols also will be free from the weight of expectations that burdened last year’s team.
Tennessee was ranked ninth at the beginning of the season and raced to a 5-0 start before splitting its final eight games, including stunning defeats at South Carolinaand Vanderbilt. An injury-riddled defense struggled to stop anyone down the stretch.
That sluggish finish and the uncertain quarterback situation could help explain why SEC media picked Tennessee to finish behind Georgia and defending division champion Florida in the East. Tennessee beat both Georgia and Florida last year.
Not only did Tennessee not have any first-team picks on the media’s preseason all-SEC team, the Vols’ only second-team selections were offensive lineman Jashon Robertson and return specialist Evan Berry.
“I just look at it as kind of irrelevant and go out and play my game,” tight end Ethan Wolf said. “Of course we don’t like hearing negative things about our team, but we’re going to come out and play as hard as we possibly can come Week 1, and the rankings, they’ll go from there.”
Other players say they’re using the lack of preseason acclaim as incentive.
“I think it’s definitely motivating,” defensive end Kyle Phillips said. “We don’t have all the, I guess you would say, the high-profile players. But we have heart. I’d say this team is probably the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here team-wise, chemistry-wise and (with) people working together and in leadership roles and things like that. I’m really excited about this season.”
Phillips and offensive lineman Jack Jones spent part of the summer among a contingent of Tennessee student-athletes visiting Vietnam and working with children in orphanages and volunteering at sports camps as part of the school’s VOLeaders program.
Both said they can apply the lessons they learned in Vietnam to football.
“Going over there and working with these kids in sport, you really see that sports can bring anyone together,” Jones said. “Stepping back, we’ve got all these new freshmen coming in, and they might be from all over the country, but football’s bringing us together.”
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers could be adding another former MVP to their roster.
Looking to close the gap on the champion Golden State Warriors, Cleveland is in contract talks with free agent guard Derrick Rose, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Thursday. Rose, whose career has been sidetracked by injuries, could sign a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, according to the person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
Cleveland has salary cap issues and is limited in what it can offer Rose, who made $21.3 million while playing in 64 games for the New York Knicks last season.
ESPN.com first reported the Cavs’ pursuit of the 28-year-old Rose. Other teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, are interested in him.
Although Rose may not be the same player he was in 2011 when he was named the league’s MVP while with the Chicago Bulls, he can still score and would be another nice compliment to LeBron James, a four-time MVP.
The Cavaliers signed free agent Jose Calderon last month as a backup to All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. Rose, if healthy, would be a better option than the 34-year-old Calderon.
Cleveland struggled to fill the backup role last season after allowing Matthew Dellavedova to leave as a free agent following the 2016 championship.
Rose has averaged 19.5 points and 6.0 assists since being drafted first overall by Chicago in 2008. He was a three-time All-Star during his seven seasons with the Bulls.
MIAMI (AP) — Udonis Haslem believes he can still play, and the Miami Heat apparently agree.
The three-time NBA champion has signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal to remain with the Heat for what will be his 15th season. Haslem was already the longest-tenured player in Heat history, with all of his NBA seasons coming for his hometown team.
Among active players, only Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have spent the entirety of a career spanning at least 15 years with one franchise.
“It is a great, great, day to have Udonis Haslem sign a contract for his 15th season with the Miami Heat,” team president Pat Riley said Thursday, when the contract was announced. “He isn’t just Mr. 305, he is a true patriarch of the team. Today we are proud to announce that he is back to lead the Heat again.”
Haslem and Dwyane Wade are the only players who were on all three Heat championship teams, 2006, 2012 and 2013. Haslem is extremely popular with the Miami fan base, and 150 children attending a Heat summer basketball camp erupted into cheers when it was announced there Thursday that he had re-signed.
Haslem — the longtime captain of the Heat, going into his 11th season in that role — heard interest from other clubs this summer, though he said all along that he wanted to be in Miami and has expressed a desire to play in the 2018-19 season as well. He appeared in 16 games last season, though his leadership has been something the Heat have raved about for years.
Undrafted in 2002, Haslem spent his first pro season in France before signing with the Heat as a free agent in 2003. He’s now on his sixth contract with the Heat.
Haslem is Miami’s career leader in rebounds with 5,701, and has appeared in 830 regular-season games — 25 shy of Wade’s record. He’s also seventh on the Heat scoring list.
MADRID (AP) — A judge denied bail for the Spanish football federation president, his son and a federation vice president arrested in an anti-corruption probe after taking their testimony on Thursday.
According to a court statement, National Court judge Santiago Pedraz made the decision to keep federation president Angel Maria Villar, son Gorka Villar, and federation vice president of economic affairs Juan Padron behind bars while the investigation continues.
Judge Pedraz set bail at €100,000 ($116,000) for a fourth suspect, Ramon Hernandez, the secretary of the regional Tenerife football federation.
The four men were arrested in police raids on Tuesday. A state prosecutor accused them of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.
Judge Pedraz denied bail for Villar father and son and Padron for what he considered the flight risk due to “the large economic capacity that they have available.”
Pedraz said Angel Maria Villar is suspected of misappropriating private and public funds received by the federation “at least since 2009.”
In a statement released by the court, Pedraz alleged that Angel Maria Villar “took advantage of this position of dominance and power in the Spanish football federation in, for example, the naming of its executive board, the awarding of funds, the hiring and paying of federation personnel, as well as the excesses related to the favoring of his son Gorka Villar.”
On Tuesday, a state prosecutor’s office said they suspected the elder Villar of having arranged matches for Spain that led to business deals benefiting his son, a sports lawyer who has worked for CONMEBOL under three presidents who were all implicated in corruption cases.
Villar has been president of the Spanish federation for three decades. He is also FIFA’s senior vice president and a vice president of UEFA.
A former professional player, the 67-year-old Villar has been the head of Spain’s soccer federation since 1988, overseeing the national team’s victories in the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
Villar is a longtime powerbroker in soccer both inside and beyond Spain’s borders, and he was singled out for questionable conduct in the 2014 FIFA report on the World Cup bidding process.
Two weeks ago, he answered a judge’s questions as part of an investigation into accusations brought by Spain’s Higher Council of Sports that his federation had committed fraud in the misappropriation of 1.8 million euros ($2 million) that was destined for humanitarian relief in Haiti. And in May, Villar’s reelection for an eighth consecutive term was marred when the only rival candidate withdrew in protest for what he said were irregularities in the election of the federation’s general assembly.
Prior to answering Pedraz’s questions, Villar spent two nights in a Guardia Civil jail on the outskirts of Madrid, not far from the Spanish federation offices which were raided by police on Tuesday along with private properties and regional federation offices.
Spain’s Higher Council of Sport pledged to guarantee that the federation’s areas of governance, which include the running of Spain’s men’s and women’s national teams, the calendar of the club competitions, appointment of referees and the distribution of government aid for soccer, will not be harmed by the arrests.
“What the government is doing is taking control of the situation so that the normal functioning of sports is not affected,” said Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport.
The Confederation of African Football’s executive committee approved two major changes to the continent’s top soccer tournament on Thursday, expanding it from 16 to 24 teams from 2019 and moving it from the beginning of the year to June-July.
CAF expects the first change to significantly increase revenue from the African Cup of Nations, its flagship tournament, and follows the lead of the European Championship, which expanded to 24 teams last year.
“The more the merrier,” CAF executive committee member Amaju Pinnick of Nigeria said this week in support of the expansion. Pinnick, who is also head of the Nigeria Football Federation, estimated that CAF could triple its revenue from the Cup of Nations — and member countries would ultimately benefit.
“It is certainly a bigger cake for everyone,” Pinnick said.
Switching the African Cup from its traditional January-February slot to the European offseason will increase the likelihood that Africa’s top tournament actually features the continent’s best players.
Previously, the African Cup clashed with a crucial period for the European leagues, forcing many African stars to choose between staying with their clubs, their employers, and representing their countries. Many, like seven of Cameroon’s leading players at this year’s African Cup in Gabon, choose club over country to the detriment of the Cup of Nations.
The proposals for the African Cup were made at a two-day meeting of African soccer’s leading figures in Rabat, Morocco, on Tuesday and Wednesday and approved by the confederation’s executive committee on Thursday. The changes will now be put to CAF’s general assembly in Rabat on Friday to be endorsed by its member countries, CAF president Ahmad said.
There was widespread support for the changes earlier this week and they are expected to be approved.
Two other radical proposals — that the African Cup be hosted outside of Africa and invite non-African teams to play — were ditched by the executive committee after a lukewarm response among delegates at the meetings.
The African Cup will be “exclusively held on African soil with African national teams,” CAF said.
Moving the tournament to the European summer months has long been seen as necessary for the Cup of Nations. But the change was resisted for years by CAF under former president Issa Hayatou, who Ahmad beat in an election in March to become head of African soccer. Ahmad, who is from Madagascar and goes by one name, promised a comprehensive review of the Cup of Nations in his election campaign and has made good on that promise four months into his presidency.
One issue to be worked out is how the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifying competition, which has already started, will be tweaked to allow 24 teams and not 16 teams to qualify.
Also, 2019 host Cameroon has come under pressure for the slow pace of its preparations, and so adding another eight teams to the competition won’t help.
SOUTHPORT, England (AP) — The wind off the Irish Sea pushed away the rain clouds and bathed Royal Birkdale in sunshine, Stars and Stripes.
The British Open began Thursday with an All-American flavor.
Jordan Spieth, chomping away on gum as he watched one putt after another pour into the center of the cup, worked some bunker magic of his own late in the round to keep his card filled only with birdies and pars for a 5-under 65.
U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, with no competition and barely any practice since capturing his first major a month ago, ran off three straight birdies and holed a tough shot from a pot bunker for eagle on the par-5 17th hole for a 5-under 65.
Joining them was Matt Kuchar, who first endeared himself to these British fans as a 19-year-old amateur in 1998 at Royal Birkdale. Kuchar tied the course record with a 29 on the front nine, only to fall into a routine of pars the rest of the way. He still shot 65, his best score ever in a major.
They had a one-shot lead over Paul Casey and Charl Schwartzel on a day that started nasty and ended with 39 players breaking par. The biggest question after a long day on the links was what was in store for Friday, when high wind and occasional showers were in the forecast.
“I thought today’s round was extremely important, as they all are,” Spieth said, atop the leaderboard at a major for the first time since last year’s Masters. “But given the forecast coming in, I thought you really needed to be in the red today. You can certainly make up ground in a round tomorrow, and we’ll see it happen. But being able to kind of play with shots, or play a little more conservative because you don’t try to do too much on a day like tomorrow, that’s nice and very helpful.”
Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy fall into that category.
Johnson, the No. 1 player who hasn’t played the weekend at a major since the British Open last year, managed only one birdie on a decent day for scoring and shot 71. McIlroy also shot 71 and was relieved. Coming off three missed cuts in his last four events, he was 5 over through six holes when his caddie gave him a pep talk. McIlroy closed with three birdies over the last four holes to stay in the game.
Phil Mickelson failed to make a birdie, the first time that has happened in a major in five years, and shot 73.
Kuchar was the only one at 65 who played in the afternoon. The wind remained strong, though the course was manageable for everyone who stayed out of bunkers and deep grass and who holed putts.
“I watched some of the golf this morning on TV. It looked awfully challenging,” Kuchar said. “It looked like anything under par was going to be a good score. Seemed like the later your tee time, the better draw you got. … For me, to start my British Open with a 29 on the front nine is a great way to start.”
Charley Hoffman had the best start of all, holing out from the rough on the daunting opening hole for an eagle. He was poised to join the leaders when he reached 5 under with a birdie on the 15th, only to drop shots on the next two holes. Hoffman shot 69 and was in a group that included Ian Poulter and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Defending champion Henrik Stenson, who played with Spieth, had a 71. Stenson also played with Spieth the first two rounds of the 2015 Masters that the Texan won wire-to-wire and knew what to expect.
“He was rolling it superbly that week, and I don’t think it was that far behind today,” Stenson said.
But his best shot was with his feet in the sand. Spieth was in thick rough to the right of the 16th fairway when his shot crept into the back of a pot bunker. Not only was the ball on a slight slope, the rake marks left his ball between two ridges.
“This is dangerous,” he said to his caddie.
He aimed to the right of the hole to avoid it going off the green on the other side and into another bunker, and it came off perfectly about 10 feet away.
“That was awesome,” were his next words to his caddie.
He made the par putt — Spieth made a lot of putts on picked up a two-putt birdie on the 17th and narrowly missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the last. It was his best start in a major since he shot 66 at the Masters a year ago. Spieth rated it among the top five or six rounds he has ever played in a major, not bad for someone who came close to the Grand Slam two years ago.
“I couldn’t have done much better today,” he said.
Royal Birkdale was much more kind than it was nine years ago in raging wind and rain. The 146th Open began in cool temperatures, a light rain and a strong wind. Mark O’Meara, a winner at Royal Birkdale in 1998 who is playing in his last British Open, hit the opening tee shot.
And then he hit another one.
O’Meara’s first shot was lost in the gorse, he made a quadruple-bogey 8 and was on his way to an 81. His threesome required 18 shots to play that hole. But the weather settled down a few hours later, and the scorecards filled up with plenty of birdies and eagles.
Just not for McIlroy until late in the round, or Johnson and Mickelson all day.
“With the weather we’re expecting tomorrow, I still feel I’m in the golf tournament,” McIlroy said. “If I can go out and play a good, quality round of golf in the morning and try to get in the clubhouse somewhere around even par, under par, I’ll still be around for the weekend.”
SOUTHPORT, England (AP) — Jon Rahm thought he was moving a loose twig, didn’t realize he had violated a rule and eventually was cleared of a penalty in the opening round of the British Open.
It was the second straight tournament in which Rahm was caught up in a rules dispute.
This one occurred on the 17th hole on Thursday when he was playing his second shot out of deep grass. Rahm noticed what he thought was a loose impediment to the right of his ball and went to move it. But it was a vine growing just above the ground with thorns. Lee Westwood noticed and mentioned to Rahm that he was violating Rule 13-2 for improving the area of his intended swing.
The walking rules official was called over and after a brief discussion, Rahm was assessed a two-shot penalty.
That changed in the scoring area when the 22-year-old Spaniard met with David Rickman, the rules director of the R&A.
“It would not have affected my swing unless I hit a 50-yard slice, which was not the case for any player in the world in that situation,” Rahm said.
Why move it if it wasn’t in the way of his swing? Rahm said it was a reflex because he thought it was a dead twig, similar to a player moving away leaves or other loose impediments as a visual distraction.
There was no video of the incident, and Westwood and Patrick Reed were not close enough to him to see for themselves. Rickman, through an R&A official, said he weighed the balance of facts and rescinded the two-shot penalty. The bogey became a birdie. Rahm’s 71 became a 69.
“At the end of the day, it’s not my call, honestly,” Rahm said. “I can describe what happened as honestly and truthfully as possible, as detailed as can happen. And they make the judgment call. It’s up to them. They did say it’s a very fine line. I would have been fine with whatever the rules official … they know the rules better than any of us and it’s their call.”
Two weeks ago at the Irish Open, Rahm avoided a two-shot penalty in the final round for replacing his ball incorrectly on the sixth green after the European Tour received emails and calls from TV viewers. Andy McFee, chief referee of the European Tour, said Rahm made a “reasonable judgment” after having moved his marker one putter head to the side to get it off the line of his playing partner.
Rahm won the Irish Open by six shots.
ROUGH START: Mark O’Meara was honored when the R&A asked him if he would be the first to tee off at the British Open because it will be his last time playing and he won at Royal Birkdale in 1998.
The honor quickly turned into mild embarrassment.
It was raining, and O’Meara had his left hand on the driver as he waved to the fans that filled the grandstand. He felt his grip slightly wet, but figuring it wouldn’t be a problem, O’Meara took a swing. The ball shot to the right into the gorse, and O’Meara hit another tee shot. That one went into the pot bunker on the left. He wound up starting his final British Open with a quadruple-bogey 8.
He followed with another bogey into the wind. He made double bogey on the par-3 seventh. He was 9 over at the turn. O’Meara wound up with an 81, the highest score of the day. In his 109th round at the Open, it was only his third round in the 80s. His highest was the opening round at Carnoustie in 1999.
“It’s not the end of the world. I realize kind of where I’m at in my life,” O’Meara said. “But, you know, you still play for your pride. When I play like that, I don’t care who plays like that, they’re disappointed. And certainly I’m disappointed that I didn’t do better today.”
At the age of 60, O’Meara has reached the age limit for the Open. He got one last chance at Royal Birkdale, where he beat Brian Watt in a playoff in 1998 to add the claret jug to the green jacket he won earlier in the year at the Masters.
But it wasn’t his day from the first shot on, though O’Meara was happy that he was able to somewhat limit the damage.
“My day was toast after that first tee shot,” he said. “But I still had to play.”
FASHION PLATES: Justin Thomas had his “coat” and tie. Jason Day had his high tops.
Together they made a fashion statement Thursday at the British Open. More importantly, perhaps, both played well.
Thomas, wearing a Polo Golf cardigan and a loosely knotted tie, shot a 67 and was two strokes off the lead. Day shot 69 while wearing white Nike high-top shoes that stood out against his black pants wherever he walked.
“If you wear golf shoes with these pants, they don’t look that great,” Day said. “So they look all right with these shoes. I’m happy with them.”
Thomas also was happy with his throwback look, which the company had publicized beforehand.
“Obviously I knew it was going to get a lot of publicity and be out there,” he said. “But I didn’t come here to dress well. I came here to try to play some good golf. And I guess that just happened.”
CASEY’S CYCLING: Paul Casey is a cycling enthusiast at home in Arizona, and he took it on the road to Italy two weeks ago.
Casey said he cycled 300 miles, which involved 3,700 feet of climbing, from Verona and up to Corvara. He was accompanied by his caddie, John McLaren, on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
“There was a lot of wine drinking going on, as well,” Casey said.
Casey has had a resurgence since he brought McLaren, known as “Johnny Long Socks,” on his bag. He hasn’t won yet, but he had two close calls in the FedEx Cup playoffs last year, losing out to great final rounds by Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.
It’s the majors that have his attention. He opened with a 66 on Thursday.
“When Johnny McLaren came on the bag, it was kind of a five-year bag to try and win one of these, win a major,” Casey said. “The Open has never been the one I’ve seem to have fared the best at. But I feel really good about this week. Don’t know why. Maybe I’m more in love with links golf than I was before. Certainly this course helps. I really like this course. Not putting that much pressure on myself, but very much wanting to win it.”
LONDON (AP) — The International Tennis Federation is putting off its proposal for a World Cup of Tennis Finals for another year.
The ITF said last month it wanted to combine next year’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup finals into one event to raise the profile of the two national team competitions. But on Thursday, the governing body said it would not put the motion to a vote at its annual general meeting next month in Vietnam.
Other proposals, such as reducing the men’s matches to best-of-three sets and possibly skipping the final match of the series if it is already decided, will still go before member nations for ratification at the Aug. 4 meeting in Ho Chi Minh City.
“We promised change and are already delivering change with a significant series of reforms,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “Taking another year to build consensus around the World Cup of Tennis Finals will allow us to finalize an even stronger recommendation to the AGM.”
Last month, the ITF said it wanted to start staging the World Cup of Tennis in November 2018 in Geneva. The Swiss city was to host the event for three years at its 18,000-seat Palexpo.
The ITF said then that it had made the announcement of the host city well in advance in an effort to follow the successful model used by the Super Bowl and Champions League final.
But that has now been put on hold as the governing body tries to sell its idea to its voting members.
“This decision shows that we do not act unilaterally,” Haggerty said, “and are working with all our stakeholders to find the best solution for tennis.”
Haggerty also announced the creation of a World Cup of Tennis Finals task force. Board members Katrina Adams and Bernard Giudicelli have been appointed as co-chairs.
“The World Cup of Tennis Finals will unlock considerable new revenue for investing back into the sport through the ITF’s member nations,” Haggerty said. “Investment in the development of the next generation remains the priority of the ITF and its national associations.”
UMAG, Croatia (AP) — Rogerio Dutra Silva upset second-seeded Gael Monfils 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Croatia Open on Thursday.
The 64th-ranked Brazilian next faces Italian Alessandro Giannessi, after he beat qualifier Kenny De Schepper of France 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Also in the second round, defending champion Fabio Fognini overcame a second-set wobble to win 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 against unseeded Nicolas Kicker of Argentina.
The third-seeded Italian had his serve broken twice set by Kicker in the second set.
In the quarterfinals, Fognini will play lucky loser entry Andrey Rublev of Russia.
Rublev beat last year’s finalist Andrej Martin of Slovakia 7-6 (5), 7-5.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. got the replacement he wanted. Alex Bowman got his dream job.
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that the 24-year-old Bowman will replace one of the series’ biggest stars in the No. 88 car next season after Earnhardt retires.
Bowman has big shoes to fill. Earnhardt was named NASCAR’s most popular driver each of the last 14 seasons and fans of his late father often tracked Junior’s results following Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 season opener at Daytona.
“Ever since I was a kid, racing is all I’ve wanted to do,” Bowman said. “I’ve had so many people believe in me along the way. My family has sacrificed a lot and always been behind me. I would never have this chance without the support of Dale and everyone involved with the No. 88 team. To be part of Hendrick Motorsports and for Mr. Hendrick to have this confidence in me, it’s just amazing.”
Bowman already has some experience in this job. When the 42-year-old Earnhardt missed 18 races because of a concussion last season, Bowman started 10 of them in the No. 88, winning the first Cup pole of his career and finishing in the top 10 three times.
That was enough to get Earnhardt’s attention and eventually an endorsement in May.
“Alex Bowman to the 88 next year — is that what you guys want?” Junior asked during a livestream on Periscope following the series’ All-Star race. “That would be pretty awesome to see Alex in that car. That’s the plan, I hope. . Yeah, Alex in the 88. That sounds good to me. That kid earned it last year. He ran good.”
The 24-year-old Bowman performed well enough to get several full-time offers to drive in the Cup series this year.
Instead, he stayed patient. Bowman said he turned down each offer as he continued searching for the right situation. The Tucson, Arizona, native wound up with no full-time ride in 2017.
But with Earnhardt’s concussion history, Bowman likely knew it wouldn’t be long until he stepped away. Rick Hendrick’s team contemplated its options for months before finally deciding bring back Bowman, who also got a 19-race majority sponsorship from the Nationwide insurance giant. Axalta Coating Systems will sponsor the No. 88 for 15 races.
In 81 career Cup starts and 50 career starts in the Xfinity Series, Bowman has never won a race. But he had 13 top-finishes and won three poles on the Xfinity circuit before blossoming in Earnhardt’s car last season.
“Alex impressed the heck out of us last year with his talent, poise and professionalism,” Hendrick said. “He stepped up in a very demanding situation and showed that he can run with the best and compete for wins. His ability to stay focused through it all, and the way he’s handled himself since then, has shown a lot of character.”
Bowman joins a series that is clearly in transition.
With television ratings and attendance sagging and three major stars — Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Earnhardt — retiring since 2015, Bowman will become yet another prominent fresh face in a series that currently has five drivers who are in their 20s in the top 15.
The announcement comes two days Earnhardt attempts to qualify for his final Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. The race is scheduled to be run Sunday.