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SPORTS TODAY

Wie to make stop
on Nationwide Tour

Teenager Michelle Wie has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Boise Open on the Nationwide Tour, becoming the first female to compete on the PGA Tour's developmental circuit.

Wie, an eighth-grader in Honolulu who already hits the ball longer than some PGA Tour players, will be the third female this year to go head-to-head with the men.

Annika Sorenstam, the No. 1 woman in golf, will become the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour next week at the Colonial.

Suzy Whaley, a Connecticut club pro, last year qualified for the Greater Hartford Open by winning a PGA sectional tournament from a shorter set of tees. That tournament is in July.

Wie already will have experience by the time she gets to the Boise Open Sept. 15-21. She also has been invited to play in the Canadian Tour's Bay Mills Open Players' Championship on Aug. 21-24 in Brimley, Mich.

The 13-year-old Wie said her 290-yard drives shouldn't intimidate the men. After all, she only hits her 4-iron about 195 yards.

"If I play good, then I think they should be able to practice more and beat me later on," Wie said.

Elsewhere in golf:

Jeff Sluman shot a bogey-free 7-under 63, including birdies on his last three holes, and held the first-round lead at the $5.6 million Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas. Billy Andrade, whose only bogey came on his final hole, was at 64 along with Jim Furyk and Kevin Sutherland.

Tiger Woods shot a bogey-free, 3-under-par 69 and was four strokes off the lead after the first round of the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Alveslohe, Germany. Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen are co-leaders at 65.

Coach chases title
while battling cancer

When Diane Geppi-Aikens learned she has an inoperable brain tumor, giving up was never an option. Instead, the women's lacrosse coach at Loyola College kept setting goals.

"One of them was to get to the final four," Geppi-Aikens said.

The hope becomes a reality in Syracuse this evening, when her top-seeded Greyhounds (17-1) play Princeton (14-4) in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. Maryland (18-3) takes on Virginia (16-4) in the other semifinal.

The recurring tumor was discovered eight years ago. Three operations later, there is little that can be done and Geppi-Aikens broke the news to her team in December.

"It was difficult," senior Suzanne Eyler said. "Diane is your coach -- you see her as indestructible. So, to hear that she, you know, may not beat this, was hard. But because she's so positive and she's so strong we learn from her from watching her."

The 40-year-old Geppi-Aikens -- a mother of four -- has little movement on her left side, and coaches from the sidelines in a motorized wheelchair.

Bills Express
ready to roll

The Bills Express will be available for three 2003 regular-season games, including the home opener against the New England Patriots on Sept. 7.

In addition, the Express will be in operation Sept. 28, when former Syracuse star Donovan McNabb leads the Philadelphia Eagles into Ralph Wilson Stadium, and for the return of Bruce Smith to Orchard Park when the Washington Redskins visit Oct. 19.

The Express, presented in cooperation with Amtrak, takes fans round trip from Albany to the stadium with stops in Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse and Rochester. Fans can purchase a Bills Express Package that includes a game ticket as well as a round-trip fare on Amtrak or pay for the transportation alone.

Tickets will be available for purchase beginning June 9. Prices, based on point of origin, are:

Albany/Schenectady, $69 (train only), $115 (train and game ticket); Utica/Syracuse, $59 and $105; Rochester, $49 and $95.

Giants' Fassel reunited
with son put up for adoption

New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and his wife, Kitty, have reunited with the son they gave away for adoption 34 years ago.

The Fassels met their son, John Mathieson, on Wednesday at a hotel in Highlands Ranch, Colo. On April 5, 1969, they put up their 3-day-old boy for adoption, and kept his birth a secret to all but their immediate family.

"For John, Kitty and myself, we have lived with an unanswerable question for all these years," Fassel told The New York Times. "If someone had granted us one wish in the world, it would always have been to be together and to know things were OK. Instead you carry this question around with you and you never know how it will come out. So to have a day like today, it is a miracle."

The Fassels, who were unmarried when John was born, were able to track down Mathieson thanks to a recent change in Colorado adoption law. They first spoke with him on Mother's Day, discovering that Mathieson was married with four daughters.

The Fassels have four other grown children.

Mathieson is a general sales manager at a Colorado car dealership. His adopted father, Tom, is dead.

In other NFL news, former Cleveland Browns linebacker Jamir Miller, 29, announced his retirement because of an Achilles' tendon injury.

Mark McCormack dies,
founded IMG agency

Mark McCormack, the sports marketing pioneer whose company IMG represents Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter and numerous other stars, died today at age 72.

McCormack died in New York four months after a heart attack that left him in a coma, the Cleveland-based company said.

In May of 1990, Sports Illustrated described McCormack as "The Most Powerful Man in Sports."

McCormack made the management of athletes' careers a big business, turning success in sports into commercial marketability. He has said the concept began in 1960 on a handshake deal with golfer Arnold Palmer.

Georgia players ineligible
after selling SEC rings

It took 20 years for Georgia's football team to win the Southeastern Conference championship. It took only a few months for nine players to begin selling off the most visible symbol of that accomplishment -- their gold rings.

All nine, including star receiver Fred Gibson and five other projected starters, have been declared ineligible by the school until they make restitution for the rings.

A single broker bought the jewelry and put up some for auction on the popular Internet site eBay. The school has arranged to repurchase the rings, a necessary step toward restoring the players' eligibility.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech declared 10 football players, including leading rusher Tony Hollings, academically ineligible for next season.

Fordham picks Whittenburg
to turn around program

Dereck Whittenburg's Wagner College teams improved their record every season in his four years there. That should be easy to do in his new job at Fordham University.

The Rams hired Whittenburg to replace coach Bob Hill after a 2-26 season, the worst record in school history.

Whittenburg -- a player on North Carolina State's 1983 national championship team -- worked as an assistant at George Mason, Long Beach State, North Carolina State, Colorado, West Virginia and Georgia Tech before getting his first head coaching job at Wagner. He took the team from 11-16 in his first year to 21-11 and its first NCAA Tournament berth last season.

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