L.A. TO GET TEAM? Entertainment executive Michael Ovitz has offered a plan to bring the NFL back to the Los Angeles area, saying he would build a stadium for a team he would own.

Ovitz told commissioner Paul Tagliabue and other NFL officials his proposed stadium would be in Carson, about 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles and would be mostly privately financed.

He envisions the team beginning play in 2002.

EX-AUBURN STAR SENTENCED: Robert Baker, a star receiver kicked off the Auburn team after a drug arrest, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to cocaine trafficking.

The sentence could be reduced by the state parole board. Baker, 22, was offered a chance for early parole as part of an agreement with prosecutors, who dropped other charges against him.

EX-COACH SENTENCED: Former Central Florida coach Gene McDowell was sentenced to home detention and community service for lying to federal agents investigating his players for cellular phone fraud.

McDowell, 58, who lost his job after admitting he lied to investigators, was sentenced to six months of home detention, two years' probation, 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.


PENGUINS, HILLIER CLOSE: The Pittsburgh Penguins are close to signing goalie Craig Hillier, their top pick in the 1996 draft.

If Hillier does not sign by June 1, he can return to the rookie pool and be drafted by another team. The Penguins then would receive the 23rd pick in the second round as compensation.

SWISS UPSET RUSSIANS: Switzerland, which just squeezed into second-round play, pulled off its biggest-ever hockey upset, stunning Russia 4-2 in the World Championships.


SPREWELL REJECTS JAIL OFFER: Latrell Sprewell has rejected a pretrial offer in his reckless-driving case that could have sent him to jail for 90-120 days, his lawyer, John Burris, said.

Sprewell, the Golden State Warriors guard who was suspended after attacking coach P.J. Carlesimo, faces as much as six months in jail if convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving.


WILLIAMS SISTERS WIN: Serena and Venus Williams routed their opponents in the Italian Open to set up a quarterfinal showdown, while fellow teen stars Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova and Mirjana Lucic also advanced.


NCAA PLANS APPEAL: Claiming it wasn't given a fair hearing before U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, the NCAA said it will appeal the $67 million judgment awarded to assistant coaches whose salaries it unlawfully restricted.

The roughly 1,900 coaches involved in the class-action suit were awarded $22.3 million in damages by a federal jury in Kansas City, Kan., on Monday after three weeks of testimony. Under antitrust law, damages are trebled.

BIG 12 CHIEF QUITS: Big 12 commissioner Steve Hatchell, who helped form the league in 1995, resigned. Oklahoma State associate athletic director Dave Martin, recently hired by the Big 12 as chief operating officer, will replace Hatchell as interim commissioner.

Figure skating

BAIUL ENTERS REHAB: Olympic gold medalist Oksana Baiul is in alcohol rehab, a year after she crashed her car into a cluster of trees in a drunken-driving accident. Baiul's agent, Shelley Schultz, said the 20-year-old skater volunteered to enter a program last week and will stay about a month.


RYAN TO HELP BUILD STADIUM: Nolan Ryan has agreed to pay nearly half the $13 million needed for a stadium to house his minor league baseball team.

Ryan recently announced his intention to bring his Class AA team, now based in Jackson, Miss., to the Austin, Texas, suburb of Round Rock.