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NFL, players gather for confidential meeting

With NFL season nearing, DeMaurice Smith works to end lockout. (Associated Press)
With NFL season nearing, DeMaurice Smith works to end lockout. (Associated Press)

NFL: The NFL and its players held talks Tuesday in New York, seeking a resolution to the labor impasse.

Three people familiar with the meetings confirmed to The Associated Press that the two groups met. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the meetings were supposed to be confidential.

One of the people confirmed the sides met in New York.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has no comment on the meeting, first reported by the NFL Network.

This is the second time in the last week the two sides have met, including a three-day session outside Chicago that included commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith. The idea is simple: face-to-face negotiations are more likely to lead to a new collective bargaining agreement than court actions.

Last Friday, both sides appeared before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, arguing whether the owners’ lockout of the players is legal. The lockout is approaching its third month, with the first preseason game just two months away.

If the federal appeals court orders the lockout lifted, the owners would need to implement a system for free agency, perhaps with a salary cap, and would not get the new business model they are seeking.

The federal appeals court has said it will rule in “due course.” Judge Kermit Bye, however, advised the two sides to work it out, saying the court’s decision likely will be “something both sides aren’t going to like.”

Sale of Sixers appears likely in near future

NBA: The Philadelphia 76ers are on the market and a person familiar with the deal says the franchise could be sold within the week.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal with the group led by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris is not yet complete.

Comcast-Spectacor, led by chairman Ed Snider, has owned the Sixers since 1996, but the group’s chief operating officer confirmed there are ongoing discussions about the team’s future.

The person familiar with the deal said the Harris-led group was not the only bidder but is now the lead bidder, adding the deal has been in the works for several months.

• Owners, players hold meeting: NBA owners and players met for more than five hours in Dallas, the first of two straight days of sessions planned to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement.

With the current deal set to expire June 30, both sides say they hope frequent meetings can help prevent a lockout.

Owners are seeking major changes to the financial structure, with commissioner David Stern saying they need a “very significant restructuring for the owners to have a sustainable investment here, one hopefully approaching $5 billion of revenue.”

The union declined to comment until after today’s meeting.

Degenkolb wins 2nd stage at Dauphine

Cycling: John Degenkolb of Germany won a bunch sprint to take the second stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in Lyon, France, while Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan retained the yellow jersey.

Degenkolb completed the 111-mile stage in the unofficial time of 4 hours, 2 minutes, 39 seconds.

Wary of NFL woes, BCS picks bowl dates

College football: The Bowl Championship Series has chosen dates for its five bowl games in an effort to avoid conflicts that could arise because of the NFL lockout, with flexibility to move the title game.

While the BCS title game in New Orleans remains scheduled for Jan. 9. a Monday night, it could be moved either up to Jan. 7 or back to Jan. 10.

BCS executive director Bill Hancock said the mostly midweek dates were chosen in case the lockout causes the NFL schedule to be pushed back.

Hamilton to step down as Vols A.D.

Miscellany: Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton announced he has decided to resign so the Volunteers would have a “clean slate” when they go before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions later in the week.

Hamilton, who has been at the helm of Tennessee men’s athletics for eight seasons, said it was both a personal decision and one that he hoped would help reunite the Vols fanbase. During a three-year period, Hamilton fired a popular coach, hired a controversial one and now the athletic department faces 12 NCAA infractions against the football and basketball programs.

• Hamm not ruling out return at nationals: Olympic champion Paul Hamm might be at the U.S. gymnastics championships, after all.

Hamm says he’s pushing to be ready to do pommel horse and floor exercise at nationals in August, just seven months after shoulder surgery. When Hamm had surgery in mid-January to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, doctors also found tears in his rotator cuff and biceps.