Dan Wetzel

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Dan Wetzel is an award-winning sportswriter, author and screenwriter. He has covered all levels of basketball as well as college football, the NFL, MLB and NHL. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October.

  • Danica Patrick crashes with Michael Annett and Jeb Burton in 500 practice

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick still has some work to do to qualify for Sunday’s Daytona 500, a task that grew at least a little more difficult when she was caught up in a wreck here Wednesday during practice.

    Patrick will have to run a back-up car, from the rear of the pack in Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel races where anything but a top 15 finish would leave her in a precarious position.

    “We knew we’d have to run hard in the duels no matter what and that hasn’t changed … still have to,” Patrick said while standing outside the infield medical center here.

    The field for the 500 will mostly be set on Thursday. The front row of pole sitter Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are in. The top 15 finishers in each of the duels (sans Gordon and/or Johnson) will be slotted into the next 30 spots. After that, four spots go to qualifying speeds across the week (Patrick isn’t likely there), then six spots based on total owner points and one for a past

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  • Should Jameis Winston sweat? Don't believe hype on background checks spotting character at scouting combine

    The NFL scouting combine begins this week and the activity that yields the least information compared to its hype isn't the 40-yard dash times of nose guards.

    It is team executives posturing about how diligently and effectively they are determining "character."

    Private investigators. Private interviews. Background checks. Psychologists. Blah, blah, blah. Heavy scrutiny didn't keep Johnny Manziel out of the first round of the NFL draft last year. (Getty Images) Heavy scrutiny didn't keep Johnny Manziel out of the first round of the NFL draft last year. (Getty Images)

    There is nothing the NFL likes to do more than brag on its self-importance, and no time does the league lay it on thicker than when claiming it is "doing their due diligence" on a prospect.

    You can't blame the teams for trying. While the likelihood of catching a clear warning sign of trouble is unlikely, if the guy bombs out, you want plausible deniability (especially with your owner) that you looked hard and were just fooled.

    You can blame the rest of us for believing this is anything more than public relations; the NFL's annual hope and pray effort because it's proven it has no ability to accurately predict character.

    A year ago it

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  • Jerry Tarkanian: A true rebel if ever there was one

    Jerry Tarkanian died Wednesday at age 84, a man who perfectly reflected both his own nickname – Tark the Shark – and that of his famous UNLV teams – Runnin' Rebel.

    Before we go beyond all the victories, before we get to how what he always said about the NCAA has become widely accepted and before we get to his immense impact on the integration of the game, let's start with a recruiting story.

    Tark recruiting stories are great and maybe no one ever had more of them than him.

    There was the time he sent Frank Sinatra in on a home visit in Jersey because the recruit had an Italian mother (didn't work). There was time he'd pick up a recruit after school in Brooklyn for weeks on end, drive him to his girlfriend's house and then wait outside in the car as they, ah, got re-acquainted (worked).

    There was the time he planned on stashing a recruit at a cabin in Lake Arrowhead (Calif.) until signing day, only to have someone else stash him first on Waikiki Beach. There was the time he learned that

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  • Aaron Hernandez trial: Fiancée granted immunity for her testimony

    Shayanna Jenkins watches during the murder trial for Aaron Hernandez. (REUTERSShayanna Jenkins watches during the murder trial for Aaron Hernandez. (REUTERSShayanna Jenkins has sat faithfully with the family of her fiancée, Aaron Hernandez, during her occasional courtroom appearances for his murder trial.

    She's chatted with his mother and uncles. She's held Hernandez's brother's hand for support.

    She's smiled at the former New England Patriots star, the father of her 2-year-old daughter, as he's entered the fifth floor of Bristol County (Mass.) Courthouse, even though he's accused of killing the boyfriend of her own sister.

    Now the whole thing could flip.

    On Tuesday, Judge E. Susan Garsh endorsed an application to grant Jenkins immunity in exchange for her testimony. She is now expected to become a prosecution witness, perhaps the most powerful the Commonwealth has.

    Hernandez is charged with planning and orchestrating the murder of Odin Lloyd, who was shot to death early on the morning of June 17, 2013, in an empty field behind an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleboro, Mass., home. Lloyd, of Boston, was the boyfriend of Shaneah

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  • How L.A. stole National Signing Day

    Snoop Dogg is throwing away his underwear – or at least that's what he promised in what had to be the highlight moment of Wednesday's National Signing Day.

    Well, it was either that or when the nation's top cornerback – from Long Beach Poly, Snoop's old high school no less – announced his intention to attend Southern California via a slick music video.

    Or maybe it was when a Texas running back tweeted lyrics from the artist Childish Gambino in announcing his decision: "Asian girls everywhere … UCLA."

    And, yes, a highlight can exist from this annual celebration of teenage self-indulgence and middle-aged fan excess when top high school talent signs with various college teams.

    No need to scold or declare it's the end of Western civilization. It's not exactly America at its best, but huffing and puffing about it isn't changing a thing, so, hey, just go with it.

    It is, if nothing else, entertaining, especially this year when NSD had a decided L.A. flair as area schools USC and UCLA cleaned

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  • After testing positive for PEDs, here's to hoping Anderson Silva retires

    Anderson Silva turns 40 in April. He was coming off an ugly compound fracture of his left leg that caused a 13-month layoff from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was trying to end a two-bout losing streak by fighting brawler Nick Diaz.

    He was headlining UFC 183 on Saturday and knew the entire MMA world would be watching – not just to see an old fighter fight, but to see the spectacular brilliance that defined "Spider," the greatest of them all.

    This is a man who won 16 UFC fights in a row stretching across a seven-year period, one often more incredible than the last.

    So, yeah, there’s no excuse for taking performance-enhancing drugs, but in a sport presumably riddled with them, was there any doubt that Anderson Silva, even the great Anderson Silva, would go that route under those circumstances, those expectations, those dangers?

    It’s not an excuse. It’s a nod to reality.

    And so is this: in the wake of coming up positive for two anabolic steroids (drostanolone and androstane) in

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  • Sin City's savior? High school hire Tony Sanchez chasing history at UNLV

    Rebel Park football practice field on the UNLV campus. (UNLV)Rebel Park football practice field on the UNLV campus. (UNLV)

    LAS VEGAS – College football's most intriguing new coach casually pulls a chair up in the middle of the UNLV football locker room last Saturday afternoon, stares out at a small collection of parents whose sons he is recruiting and flashes a content smile.

    "Questions?" Tony Sanchez says. "Concerns? Ask me anything."

    He means it, and not because the guy is a natural salesman with so much passion for his new job that he can spin everything into a positive. Say, the less-than-palatial UNLV weight room which, like most things around here, could use a modern overhaul?

    Sanchez, without being asked, notes there is more than enough actual weight to lift in order to get strong enough to win, implying that some flashy, splashy space holds no real value.

    "I just need some junkyard dogs," he says, as a couple old-school fathers nod in agreement.

    This may be Tony Sanchez's first ever National Signing Day as a college coach, but he appears completely at ease. He wasn't giving those parents a

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  • Malcolm Butler's goal-line pick clinches Super Bowl win for Patriots against defending champion Seahawks

    GLENDALE, Ariz. – On the ropes, down 10 points in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady engineered a comeback to give the New England Patriots a 28-24 lead over the Seattle Seahawks with a little more than two minutes left in Super Bowl XLIX.

    Brady and the rest of the Patriots couldn't exhale until defensive back Malcolm Butler picked off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line with 20 seconds left to secure a dramatic championship in what will go down as one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played.

    Malcolm Butler's forever moment in Super Bowl XLIX. (AP) Butler’s pick came soon after his deflection of a Wilson pass wound up in the hands of Jermaine Kearse on an acrobatic catch that would’ve been one of the greatest in NFL history. It also came on a questionable play call by the Seahawks, who decided not to give the ball again to powerful running back Marshawn Lynch.

    "I made a play to help my team win," Butler said. "I've worked so hard in practice and I just wanted to play so bad and help my team out. I got out there and did

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  • If this was Anderson Silva's swan song, he went out on his terms – as a legend

    LAS VEGAS – They came for the Legend because no one could be sure if the Legend would ever come again.

    They came for the lights be turned down and those haunting first beats of DMX to blast, for the signature black and yellow shorts, for that prefight moment when Anderson Silva falls calmly back against the Octagon or the one where he squats down as he's introduced.

    They came because he's the greatest of all time, at least until Jon Jones surpasses him, which was interesting because Jon Jones came also, standing in the front row filming it on his cell phone, like any old fan, shouting encouragement and coaching – "to the body!"

    The MGM Grand Garden on Saturday felt as much like a curtain call for Anderson Silva as a comeback. It felt like one more for the road because a champion this great just wouldn't allow himself to leave the way he was leaving – coming off two consecutive losses, the last one courtesy of a gruesome snapped leg and primal screams of pain.

    That was no way to end

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  • Aaron Hernandez could be found guilty of murder even if it's not proven he pulled the trigger

    FALL RIVER, Mass. – Defense attorney Michael Fee had just spent the better part of a half-hour slapping the prosecution around via a forceful, impressive and at times even mocking opening statement in the murder trial of his client, former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez.

    This was some serious lawyering, not just pointing out the weak links of the case, but perhaps even drawing the jury in on what he essentially called an elaborate con to charge Hernandez in the June 2013 murder of his friend Odin Lloyd.

    There's no gun. There are no eyewitnesses that will testify. There is no plausible motive. There was, Fee said, just a "sloppy and unprofessional" investigation hell bent on getting the football star. Fee was particularly strong because he followed a clumsy, halting and too long opening statement from district attorney Patrick Bomberg. This was a courtroom mismatch.

    Fee even attacked the most damning hurdle his client must clear: Hernandez's almost certain presence at the murder

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