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Jones insists Phillips won't be fired

| Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008

IRVING, Texas — Wade Phillips will be back as coach of the Dallas Cowboys next season, and Jason Garrett will remain in charge of the offense, regardless of whether the team makes the playoffs, club owner Jerry Jones said Friday.

And he said it vehemently.

"The coaches are in place. I've said that. How can I be any clearer?" Jones said. "Look, I've said that our coaching staff, as far as I'm concerned, is in place. I just want to make the statement rather than answer questions, because your questions imply certain things that I don't want to imply.

"I'm saying that when I look at where we are coaching staff-wise and when I look at where we are personnelwise, I see a team that is in place to compete for several years."

Still, the questions continued because this team that went 13-3 last season and owned the No. 1 seed in the NFC is now 9-6 and trying to grab the last available wild card into this season's playoffs. The Cowboys will get it with a win Sunday in Philadelphia. If they lose, there's been speculation that Jones would fire Phillips. There's long been speculation that Phillips might be pushed aside, and Garrett promoted from offensive coordinator, next season anyway as Dallas moves into a new $1.1 billion, 100,000-seat stadium.

• Mike Singletary was noncommittal yesterday when the San Francisco 49ers' interim coach was asked whether offensive coordinator Mike Martz would return to the club with him next season. Singletary, 4-4 since taking over the 49ers (6-9) from fired coach Mike Nolan on Oct. 20, is widely expected to get the permanent job early next week.

• The Tennessee Titans could be without as many as seven players for the season finale against Indianapolis on Sunday. Linebacker David Thornton (hip), cornerback Nick Harper (groin) and defensive end Dave Ball (back) will all be doubtful after not practicing Wednesday or yesterday. Additionally, running back LenDale White did not practice all week because of illness and will be questionable for the game. The Titans also declared three injured players — defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin), defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (knee) and center Kevin Mawae (elbow) — as out for the game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

• Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio got a new contract yesterday, a deal that will pay him a $2 million bonus if he remains with the program into 2016. Dantonio's contract remains a five-year rollover deal with a base salary of $618,000. His overall compensation will rise to $1.8 million per year, up from $1.13 million, because of increased supplemental income.

• Army hired Rich Ellerson, who grew up around Black Knights football and is leaving his coaching job at Cal Poly, to replace Stan Brock as football coach after Brock led the program to a pair of 3-9 seasons. Ellerson's father and two brothers graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, and brother John led the 1962 team to a 6-4 record.

Baseball

· The Big Unit is heading home to the Bay Area. Randy Johnson and the San Francisco Giants agreed to a one-year contract, meaning the 45-year-old pitcher will go for his 300th win with a new team. Johnson, a 21-year big league veteran who spent the past two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was born in Walnut Creek, Calif., about 30 minutes from the Giants' waterfront ballpark. The five-time Cy Young Award winner has 295 victories after going 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts last season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

• In Hartford, Conn., Jeff Adrien scored 21 points, Hasheem Thabeet had 20 and second-ranked Connecticut remained unbeaten by dominating down low against undersized Fairfield in a 75-55 victory Friday night. Adrien also grabbed 14 rebounds while Thabeet added 11 rebounds and six blocks for the Huskies (11-0), who have won 64 consecutive games against in-state opponents. Their last loss to a Connecticut team came against Hartford in 1986, Jim Calhoun's first season as coach.

HORSE RACING

• Two connected barns at New Orleans Race Course were quarantined yesterday because a 3-year-old filly tested positive for equine herpes. It may take 10 days to clear other horses trained by Dallas Stewart, who trains the filly, and Neil Howard, said Dr. Tom David, the equine medical director of the Louisiana State Racing Commission.

• Jockey Sam Thompson Jr. died Christmas Day, five days after he was thrown from a quarter horse following a race at Los Alamitos. The 36-year-old rider had been on life support at Los Alamitos Medical Center since the Dec. 20 accident. Thompson's family had him taken off life support Thursday, medical center spokesman Orlando Gutierrez said. Harems Dynasty, a 2-year-old filly, threw Thompson after finishing seventh in the eighth race. The Los Alamitos Race Course season ended Dec. 21.

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

• Although Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans earned their UFC contracts by winning competitions on a popular TV reality show, both men are much more than a pretty face — or a bloody face, as is often the case for mixed martial artists. Winning the respect of their fellow fighters and the UFC public has been tougher than pounding their fellow contestants in "The Ultimate Fighter," but both men earned their place in the sport in recent years with gritty victories that led them to each other. They'll meet for Griffin's light heavyweight title tonight on the loaded UFC 92 card at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

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