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Today in sports: Fox wins the television rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, the University of Missouri's move the SEC looks likely for next week, and the rise and fall of the football neck roll.

  • Fox outbid ESPN and NBC Universal for the U.S. television rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. (Telemundo outbid Univision for the Spanish-language U.S. rights.) The exact figures aren't known, but The New York Times hears the bids were "significantly higher than the combined $425 million that ESPN ($100 million) and the Spanish-language network Univision ($325 million) paid for the American rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups." ESPN has been expanding its coverage the European Champions League, the English Premier League, and Major League Soccer and was considered the favorite to win again. According to the Times, there's already "concern by American soccer officials" that losing ESPN will hurt American soccer's visibility. [The New York Times]
  • The University of Missouri's Board of Curators has given school chancellor Brady Beaton "full authority" to pull the school out of the Big 12 and apply for membership in another conference. Deaton's believed to be in favor of moving to the SEC, though he was quick not to tip his hand during his press conference today. Earlier in the week The New York Times said Missouri's move to the SEC was "inevitable and imminent," and today the Kansas City Star predicts the school will formally apply for membership "by the middle of next week." [The Kansas City Star]
  • LSU football reportedly suspended Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and running back Spencer Ware after the players tested positive for synthetic marijuana. They won't be subject to NCAA punishment because the organization's drug testing labs aren't equipped to perform tests for synthetic pot, even though it's on the NCAA's list of banned substances. This prevents a worrisome scenario where a steam could know of a positive and not enact any punishment.  Mary Wilfert, NCAA associate director of health and safety, didn't make it sound like the NCAA was eager to start enforcing the ban by performing their own tests "Schools can determine whether they test for something," Wilfert said. "It's independent of NCAA testing...I know some schools are testing for it. What the penalties are is up to the school." [ESPN]
  • From the 1970s to the end of the 1990s, the neck roll was a ubiquitous football accessory. Now they're as rare as a barefooted kicker. That might be a good thing, since they didn't really keep players safe. Says Stephen J. Straub, a sports medicine professor at Quinnipiac University: "They’ve never been shown to be effective. ... In a lab, they seem to be able to control the head, at least a little bit. But no one has been able to show that on a football field." It was the "intimidation and the drama factor" that kept players wearing them, says Pro Football Hall of Fame historian Joe Horrigan. "And the fact that this is a copycat league. If one person does something or wears something, others will see it and think it works." [The New York Times]
  • NBA players and owners had 30 hours of negotiations before a federal mediator over the last three days in the hopes of making progress towards a new labor deal. They did not and both sides walked from the negotiating table. That's happened before during the lockout but what troubled Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe was "the level of ugly rhetoric and the union’s willingness to publicly disclose the play-by-play of what went on behind closed doors" that followed the breakdown of the talks. Players Association president Derek Fisher said deputy commissioner Adam Silver "lied to" the press about the union's stance in negotiations and lawyer Jeff Kessler said the talks got "hijacked." The union is blaming it all on Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen, who hasn't been particularly active in the talks so far, coming to Thursday's mediation session and acting, in their estimation, a strongman to make sure the owners on the negotiating committee didn't relent and give players more than 50 percent of basketball related income. (Under the old labor deal, 57 percent of BRI went to players and the union's most recent proposal cut their share to 53 percent.) When union boss Billy Hunter asked Allen why ownership was taking a firmer stance on the issue after signs of relenting the previous day, Allen "remained silent, refusing to verbally address the union," at which point things began to unravel. [Sports Illustrated]

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