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NCAA CLEARS NEUHEISEL: Former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel was cleared of wrongdoing by the NCAA Wednesday for gambling in a college basketball pool, but the university had its probation extended two years.

Washington's NCAA probation — initially imposed because of men's basketball recruiting violations — now runs until Feb. 9, 2007. The school was also reprimanded for failing to monitor the football program.

Thomas E. Yeager, chair of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, said that Neuheisel avoided punishment because the school's compliance officer had written memos mistakenly saying that participation in gambling pools was allowed. "Sports wagering is a problem that continues to threaten the well-being of student-athletes and coaches and the integrity of intercollegiate athletics," Yeager said. "If not for unique and unusual mitigating circumstances in this case, the outcome certainly would have been different. This case should not be interpreted in any fashion as a softening of the NCAA's antigambling position."


FALCON SUSPENDED: Dan Nwaelele, a 6-foot-5 sophomore forward who was expected to start at Air Force Academy this season, has been suspended from the team indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of Academy standards.

Coach Chris Mooney said Tuesday that Nwaelele, from Bothell, Wash., was suspended Friday. He will practice, but won't be allowed to play in games until the suspension is over. He would not say when that might be.

NBA SUSPENDS GRIFFIN: Minnesota Timberwolves forward Eddie Griffin received a three-game suspension from the NBA on Wednesday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in Texas.

Griffin will be suspended without pay for the first three games of the regular season, if he makes the team. The seventh overall pick by New Jersey in the 2001 draft, Griffin is one of several players in camp competing for what is probably just one open roster spot. Griffin is allowed to practice and compete in the remaining preseason games, Timberwolves spokesman Mike Cristaldi said.

"As an organization, we understand today's decision by the NBA," vice president Kevin McHale said in a news release issued by the team. "It addresses an event from Eddie's past and we know that Eddie regrets the incident and is deeply sorry that it occurred. We are focused on his future and are working to advance his development as both a player and a person."

Griffin was charged for fighting with a woman who alleged he beat her and fired a gun in her direction at his Houston-area home on Oct. 25, 2003.

Griffin has been in trouble several times throughout his career at Seton Hall and in the NBA. He was released by the Nets in February after leaving the team to check into the Betty Ford Center for alcohol-abuse treatment.

Griffin's agent Arn Tellem did not immediately return a phone message.

WNBA CHIEF STEPPING DOWN: Val Ackerman is stepping down as president of the WNBA, a position she has held since the league's inception in 1996, The Sports Business Daily reported Wednesday.

Ackerman joined the NBA as an attorney in 1988, and served as a special assistant to commissioner David Stern. She later became the league's vice president of business affairs.

Numerous sports marketing sources told the newspaper, published by Street & Smith's Sports Group, of Ackerman's decision to leave the WNBA. Telephone messages left with the WNBA by The Associated Press on Wednesday were not returned. An official announcement could come as early as today, according to the newspaper, though Ackerman is expected to stay until February and lead the search for her successor.


FERRERO FALLS: Defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero made 37 unforced errors and was upset by Luis Horna of Peru 6-3, 6-1 Wednesday in the second round of the Madrid Masters.

It was the most lopsided loss since April for the 2003 French Open champion, who had a first-round bye because he's seeded sixth.

Several other seeded players bowed out Wednesday, including double Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu, who lost to Ferrero in last year's final. No. 11-seeded Jiri Novak, No. 13 Rainer Schuettler, and No. 15 Fernando Gonzalez also exited. Top-seeded Tim Henman and No. 3 Marat Safin won. The Madrid Masters marked Ferrero's last chance to defend a title in a season in which he has been inhibited by back, ribs, and wrist injuries.