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ESPN will air a 30-minute documentary honoring O.J. Simpson as one of the 50 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century, despite his reputation.

Simpson, the Heisman Trophy winner in his senior year at the University of Southern California, had an 11-year professional career. He was the first NFL player to run for more than 2,000 yards in a single season, in 1973 for the Buffalo Bills, and finished his career with 11,236 yards rushing.

The special, to be broadcast Friday, will take note of the allegations that Simpson killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a companion, Ronald Goldman. Although acquitted of criminal charges, Simpson was found liable for their deaths in a separate civil proceeding, a decision he is appealing.

But panelists voting on the 50 greatest athletes were asked to consider athletic prowess alone, the network said. ESPN also said nearly 60 percent of ESPN Web site users said they believed Simpson was one of the greatest athletes of the century.

Among those interviewed for the Simpson program were author George Plimpton and former NFL defensive end Deacon Jones.

Jones said Simpson's predicament should not overshadow the quality of his performance.

"Nothing he did outside the game has anything to do with his contributions to the sport, not one iota," Jones said. "Now, if you hate him over here for what he was accused of, you understand, then hate him over here, but over here you have to give him his dues."

Simpson is the second athlete to be honored in the 50-part series, at No. 49. Tennis great Chris Evert was first, at No. 50.

The series will spotlight one athlete per week, finishing with the top athlete of the century in December.

Phil Simms' son to play for Texas instead

Chris Simms, son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, had a change of heart and will play football at Texas instead national champion Tennessee, his coach said.

The surprise switch came more than a month after a mid-December announcement that Simms would join the Volunteers.

Texas and Penn State were the other finalists in the recruiting battle for the left-handed quarterback considered among the top prep players in the country.

"He has had some time over the last few weeks to reflect and think about it before he made it final, and he weighed it out in his mind and he just felt Texas was a better fit for him," said Mike Miello, Simms' coach at Ramapo (N.J.) High School.

The younger Simms was not immediately available for comment.

Tee Martin returns at quarterback for Tennessee, but Simms may have wavered when A.J. Suggs, another top quarterback prospect from Georgia, also verbally committed to the Vols.

Texas, meanwhile, has Major Applewhite returning for the next few seasons, but Simms could move up quickly since the Longhorns lack depth at quarterback.

Esherick's Hoyas give UConn all they can handle

Without John Thompson, Georgetown is playing more like a John Thompson-type team. So says the coach of the No. 1 team in the country.

Earlier this month, Jim Calhoun's Connecticut team was unchallenged in the first half and routed Thompson's Hoyas 87-64, the Huskies' biggest margin of victory against their Big East rival.

In Monday night's rematch, new Georgetown coach Craig Esherick's players stymied UConn with scrappy and unrelenting physical play for more than a half. Finally, a 16-6 second-half run led by Richard Hamilton erased a six-point deficit as the Huskies emerged with a 78-71 victory and remained the only unbeaten team in Division I.

"Craig's got them playing like John Thompson's Georgetown," Calhoun said. "They didn't play like that when they played us up in Storrs. They're a pretty good team. Nobody can put them away."

Hamilton took more than his share of bumps along the way, but he kept his head and finished with 27 points, making 10 of 13 free throws.

Calhoun said the Huskies (18-0, 10-0 Big East) were tired after three games in six days. Now there's a four-day break before the toughest part of the schedule: No. 9 St. John's, No. 17 Syracuse, then No. 3 Stanford.

Meanwhile, Clemson's Vincent Whitt and Johnny Miller, suspended last week for violating team policy, had their seasons ended by Tigers coach Larry Shyatt. Shyatt said Monday the two former starters would not play again this year.

Ex-champ Moorer faces drunken driving charges

Former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer faces charges of drunken driving and evading arrest after driving his car into a ditch in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Rutherford County police arrested Moorer, 31, of Boca Raton, Fla., early Sunday morning after he crashed his 1997 Mercedes into a ditch.

Deputy Brian Guthrie said that he was forced to pull his gun on Moorer, who was very angry and did not want to cooperate. Two friends talked Moorer into surrendering.

A hearing is set for Feb. 24.

Bisons announce Grapefruit slate

The Buffalo Bisons will play 14 exhibition games this spring, starting with a March 18 date against Richmond. That game will be played at the Bisons' spring-training home of Winter Haven, Fla.

Minor-league pitchers and catchers in the Cleveland Indians' organization -- the Bisons' parent team -- will report for spring training on March 8, while positional players will arrive on March 10.

The complete schedule:

Mar. 18 -- Richmond at Bisons; Mar. 19 -- To ledo at Bisons; Mar. 20 -- Bisons vs. New Orle ans in Kissimmee; Mar. 22 -- Omaha at Bisons; Mar. 23 -- Bisons vs. Richmond in Disney Com plex; Mar. 24 -- Bisons vs. Toledo in Lakeland; Mar. 25 -- New Orleans at Bisons; Mar. 27 -- Bi sons vs. Omaha in Baseball City; Mar. 28 -- Rich mond at Bisons; Mar. 29 -- Toledo at Bisons; Mar. 30 -- Bisons vs. New Orleans in Kissimmee; Apr. 1 -- Omaha at Bisons; Apr. 2 -- Bisons vs. Richmond at Disney Complex; Apr. 3 -- Bisons vs. Toledo in Lakeland.<

Around & About

* Kristina Behnfeldt had 27 points and Toni Patillo had 22 to lead Marshall to a 76-59 win over the University at Buffalo in women's basketball action in the Mid-American Conference. The game was played in Huntington, W. Va., and it was Marshall's first league win of the season.

UB was down by only three points with about 10 minutes left in the game, but Marshall slowly pulled away after that. Catherine Jacob and Tiffany Bell had 15 points each to lead the Bulls.

* Hilary Waltman of St. Bonaventure has been named the Atlantic 10 Conference's player of the week. The forward became the school's all-time leading scorer on Jan. 17, when she scored 22 points against Duquesne. Waltman leads the A-10 in scoring with an average of 21.2 points per game.

Kelly Hilliman of Tonawanda finished 10th in aerials in the final event of the Sprint Grand National World Cup freestyle championships. She was No. 3 among women from the U.S. She stands 13th in the World Cup standing after three events, fourth among American women.

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