Thursday’s Sports in Brief

AUTO RACING

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR plans to restart its engines with a flurry of races at two historic tracks.

NASCAR said it is set to return May 17 with an elite Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, the first of seven events in an 11-day stretch across the top three series.

There will be no practice, no qualifying and drivers will jump into their cars for the first time since March 8 and attempt to tackle “The Track Too Tough To Tame.”

NASCAR has set guidelines to safely hold the events using CDC guidelines on social distancing and personal protective equipment. The entire venue will be used to maintain distancing in garage stalls and where the haulers are parked, while drivers will have to self-isolate in their motorhomes as they prepare to compete.

NASCAR follows the UFC as the first major sports organizations to get back to work since the coronavirus pandemic shut down U.S. sports in mid-March.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS

NEW YORK (AP) — The NCAA Board of Governors has recommended delaying a change to the transfer waiver process that would permit all athletes to switch schools once without sitting out a season.

Now it is likely the NCAA will examine loosening restrictions on transfers through legislation.

The NCAA announced the board’s recommendation after several days of meetings, but added the Division I council could still a vote on making the waiver change in May.

The board did agree to lift a moratorium on legislative changes to the transfer rules, allowing NCAA member schools to consider proposals in January for a one-time exception for all transferring Division I athletes.

NFL

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals cleared the way for Joe Burrow to lead the team by releasing quarterback Andy Dalton, who holds several of the franchise’s passing records but couldn’t lead Cincinnati deep into the playoffs.

The move gives Dalton, who had a year left on his deal, a chance to compete for a job with another team.

It also clears the way for Burrow to start fresh on a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the fifth-longest stretch of futility in NFL history.

Dalton led Cincinnati to its best stretch of playoff appearances — five straight from 2011-15 — but couldn’t get that elusive win. As the offensive line deteriorated and top receiver A.J. Green sustained a series of injuries, Dalton’s results suffered, too.

DENVER (AP) — Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller tweeted he tested negative for the coronavirus two weeks after announcing he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Miller went public with his diagnosis on April 16, saying he wanted to show that the virus could affect anybody, even a young, world-class athlete in tip-top shape.

Miller, who has asthma, was under the care of Broncos team doctors and quarantined at his Denver area home over the last two weeks.

Miller is the second active NFL player to acknowledge testing positive during the coronavirus pandemic that has sickened more than 3 million people globally and killed over 230,000 people worldwide, including about 63,000 confirmed deaths in the U.S.

The Super Bowl 50 MVP is the highest-profile American athlete to announce he’s contracted COVID-19. In March, NBA star Kevin Durant was among several members of the Brooklyn Nets to test positive.

NBA

NBA team presidents met and emerged with belief that there are still ways to resume the season, and Dallas owner Mark Cuban also expressed optimism that the league will find a way out of the coronavirus-caused shutdown.

Team presidents around the league hold regular calls, as do general managers, and those calls have continued during the league’s shutdown. Thursday’s call was not organized for any specific reason.

The NBA has been shut down since March 11 and 259 regular season games have yet to be played. It remains unclear if any of those games would be rescheduled should the league resume play, or if the NBA would opt to go directly into the postseason.

Cuban, speaking to CNN, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the season could resume — albeit in empty buildings.

San Antonio Spurs CEO R.C. Buford said the teams and league officials are discussing countless options, none of which have been finalized and none of which have been detailed specifically by the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver has said the league has been open to any idea thrown its way about when, where and how to resume.

GOLF

A shorter season brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic means no one will lose a PGA Tour card this year and the Korn Ferry Tour players will have to wait a year before fully joining the big leagues.

A memo sent to players Thursday to outline the changes was another step in the tour trying to figure out what’s equitable in a season that will be without 13 previously scheduled events.

The tour said players exempt for this season will keep the same status for the 2020-21 season that is scheduled to start in September unless they earn a higher ranking after this shortened season.

As for the developmental Korn Ferry Tour, no one will graduate to the PGA Tour after the season. The tour was working on rewarding the top 10 players, such as allowing them in opposite-field field events for next season.

All of this is contingent on golf resuming June 11-14 at Colonial, the restart of a season that would include only one major championship. The PGA Championship is tentatively set for Aug. 9-12 in San Francisco.

BASEBALL

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — This year’s Little League World Series and the championship tournaments in six other Little League divisions have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Little League President Stephen Keener announced the cancellations in a Facebook Live broadcast from league headquarters, saying it would be “impossible” to hold the events amid ongoing restrictions on large gatherings and travel.

The Little League World Series has been held every August since 1947 and had never been canceled before. Next year was to be the 75th playing of the tournament; that milestone has been pushed back to 2022.

SOCCER

NEW YORK (AP) — An Israeli bank and its Swiss subsidiary agreed to pay over $30 million for their role in conspiring to launder more than $20 million in kickbacks to soccer officials, becoming the first financial institutions implicated in the FIFA scandal to reach a resolution with U.S. prosecutors.

Bank Hapoalim BM in Israel and its wholly owned Swiss company Hapoalim Ltd. agreed to forfeit $20.73 million and pay a fine of $9.33 million as part of a non-prosecution agreement, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn said Thursday. The scheme took place through the banks’ Miami branch from 2010-15, with many of the payments tied to marketing rights for the Copa America.

Eugenio Figueredo, a former president of the South American governing body CONMEBOL and Uruguay’s federation, was among those accused of receiving the bribes, along with Luis Bedoya, a former president of Colombia’s federation and like Figueredo a onetime member of FIFA’s executive committee.

Former federation presidents Sergio Jadue of Chile and Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela also were implicated by the U.S. Justice Department, along with Jose Luis Chiriboga, whose father, Luis, was president of Ecuador’s federation.

Bank Hapoalim (BHMB) and Hapoalim Ltd. (BHS) reached a deal with the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s office in which they and BHMB subsidiary Hapoalim (Latin America) SA will not be subject to prosecution for any of the crimes admitted in the deal, except for criminal tax violations.

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wants to see soccer competitions start back up again soon despite the country’s high number of coronavirus cases, arguing that players are less likely to die from COVID-19 because of their physical fitness.

Bolsonaro is one of the few world leaders that still downplays the risks brought by the coronavirus, which he has likened to “a little flu.”

Most soccer tournaments in Brazil were suspended on March 15. The Brazilian championship was scheduled to begin in May, but that looks unlikely as the country has become Latin America’s coronavirus epicenter with more than 5,900 deaths. Doctors say the peak of the pandemic is expected to hit within two weeks.

Brazil’s president said his new health minister will issue a suggestion that games return without any fans in the stadiums, but he acknowledged many players might be reluctant.