The University of Southern California officially introduced Lane Kiffin as its new head coach on Wednesday at a press conference. Kiffin noted that this position was his "dream job" and that it was a very difficult decision to leave the Volunteers. Kiffin was previously a member of Pete Carroll's staff at USC from 2001-06, eventually being elevated to offensive coordinator for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He also assumed the role of recruiting coordinator for those seasons. Kiffin was given his first head coaching gig when Al Davis lured him to the NFL. Kiffin, though, lasted less than two seasons with Oakland, compiling a 5-15 record before leaving in a bitter war of words with the Raiders owner. Tennessee then came calling after Phillip Fulmer announced he would not return for an 18th season in 2009, and Kiffin guided the Volunteers to a 7-6 record and an appearance in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl this past year.
University of Houston junior quarterback Case Keenum announced Wednesday he will return for his senior season rather than enter the NFL draft. Keenum led the nation in total offense this past season for a second straight year, with 416.4 yards per game. He also led the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing yards per game (405.1) and touchdown passes (44), and was a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback. With Keenum at the helm, Houston led the nation in scoring, finishing 10-4, although that includes a loss to East Carolina in the Conference-USA title game, as well as a loss to Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. In 2009, Keenum threw for 5,671 yards and completed 70.3 of his pass attempts (492-of-700). He also had 158 yards rushing and four scores, finishing with 5,829 yards of total offense.
Los Angeles Clippers rookie forward Blake Griffin will have knee surgery, ending his season before he had an opportunity to play. Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, has not played this season because of the fractured left kneecap he suffered in the Clippers' last preseason game. In late December, Griffin was cleared to increase his rehab workload, but he has experienced some discomfort and was examined Tuesday, when it was discovered his healing had not improved as expected. Because of that, Griffin will have surgery and miss 4-to-6 months. Griffin, 20, was taken first overall after a standout college career at Oklahoma. He was named the 2009 National Player of the Year after averaging 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds in his sophomore season for the Sooners.
Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was fined $25,000 by the NBA for conduct surrounding his ejection on January 11 against Atlanta. Rivers was ejected with 6:16 remaining in the third quarter of the Celtics' loss to the Hawks, the team's third loss to Atlanta in as many games this season. The head coach lost his temper when forward Glen Davis was assessed a flagrant foul he felt was not appropriate. Rivers was promptly given two technical fouls and was ejected.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson has been honored as the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year, as voted by the Associated Press. Johnson, the Titans' first-round draft pick in 2008, rushed 358 times for a league-best 2,006 yards to go with 14 touchdowns this season. He had the most yards from scrimmage in NFL history, also catching 50 passes for 503 yards and two scores. That broke the league mark of yards from scrimmage set by Marshall Faulk (2,429) in 1999. Johnson beat out New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees for the award. Johnson garnered 38 1/2 votes out of a possible 50 from a panel of media members. Brees received nine votes. The 24-year-old Johnson is just the sixth player to eclipse the 2,000-yard rushing plateau, joining Eric Dickerson, Jamal Lewis, O.J. Simpson, Terrell Davis and Barry Sanders.
The Kansas City Chiefs have reportedly hired Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator. Several media sources indicate Crennel will take over the job for Clancy Pendergast, who was in his first campaign with the team at that position. The 62-year-old Crennel, who was head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2005-08, will be reunited with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. The trio worked together in New England and teamed to win three Super Bowls. Weis, who was named offensive coordinator under Todd Haley last week, held the same position with the Patriots from 2000-04 before becoming head coach at Notre Dame. Crennel, who was defensive coordinator with the Patriots from 2001-04, will try to turn around a Chiefs defense that ranked 30 out of 32 teams in terms of yards allowed at over 388 per game. Only Cleveland and Detroit were worse.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin and linebacker Gerald Hayes both missed practice on Wednesday and their availability for the NFC Divisional playoff game at New Orleans is up in the air. Boldin and Hayes are still being bothered by lingering ankle injuries. Boldin sat out the Cardinals' 51-45 overtime victory against Green Bay in their NFC Wild Card playoff game on Sunday. Defensive end Calais Campbell (thumb), linebacker Will Davis (knee), punter Ben Graham (groin) and cornerbacks Bryant McFadden (chest) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (toe, knee) all practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday.
The Dallas Cowboys were without running back Marion Barber during Wednesday's practice as the team prepares for Sunday's NFC semifinal game against the Minnesota Vikings. Barber, who is dealing with a knee injury, was limited in last week's 34-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild card round. He carried the ball three times for four yards. Second-year tailback Felix Jones carried the load against the Eagles, running for 148 yards and a score on 16 rushes. Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said Wednesday he thought Barber, a Minnesota native, would play if there's a way he can. Phillips added that he thought Barber's condition had improved.
Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran underwent knee surgery Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for the next 12 weeks, putting his status for Opening Day in jeopardy. Beltran started having trouble with his right knee in the middle of May of last season and had a lengthy stay on the disabled list with what the team maintained was a deep bone bruise. That condition became more clear Wednesday, as the team indicated Beltran experienced a deteriorating condition of osteoarthritis leading to the arthroscopic procedure to clean out the arthritic area of his knee. The surgery was performed by Dr. Richard Steadman in Colorado. Beltran missed 2 1/2 months of the 2009 season and was limited to 81 games. He returned in September and, according to the team's medical update, had not been experiencing pain following the conclusion of the season and into his early offseason conditioning. However, the symptoms returned to the point where pre-spring training conditioning became too painful. The 32-year-old's initial timetable for a return would have him resuming baseball activities three days after the regular season is scheduled to begin on April 4. The switch-hitting center fielder hit .325 with 48 runs batted in, 10 homers and 11 stolen bases last season for the Mets.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will undergo surgery Thursday to repair a herniated disc in his back. Khabibulin, who will be out an unspecified amount of time, will have the procedure done in Los Angeles. The announcement came on Khabibulin's 37th birthday. So far this season, the veteran is 7-9-2 with a 3.03 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage over 18 games. He hasn't played since November 16 due to the back problem.