| DIED |
At age 50 of undetermined causes, former Notre Dame quarterback Blair Kiel. After leading Columbus East High to an Indiana state title in 1979, Kiel won the starting job four games into his freshman year with the Fighting Irish. Four up-and-down seasons ensued: Kiel (above) threw for 3,650 yards, 17 touchdowns—including the longest pass in Notre Dame history, 96 yards—and 32 interceptions while the Irish went 27-17-2 with two bowl appearances. Before the second postseason game, recalls running back Allen Pinkett, Kiel movingly implored teammates to accept a bid to the Liberty Bowl so that they could represent the school one more time. They did, and Notre Dame beat Doug Flutie's Boston College Eagles 19--18. In '84, Kiel was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 11th round, but he started just three games, with the Bucs, Colts and Packers. Kiel's nephew Gunner, a five-star Scout.com quarterback prospect, enrolled at Notre Dame in January.
| ANNOUNCED |
By former NBA All-Star Antoine Walker, who has spent the past two seasons toiling in the Development League (SI, March 19), that he will retire. Walker, 35, won an NCAA championship with Kentucky in 1996 and an NBA title with the Heat in 2006, and he earned more than $110 million over 12 years, averaging 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game along the way. Yet he found steady work hard to come by in recent years, a fact many attributed to his inconsistency and prickly demeanor. In '10, Walker declared bankruptcy, and he was in his second stint with the Idaho Stampede—playing to pay off debts—when he called it quits.
| DENIED |
By NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, an appeal of the sanctions that he had levied against the Saints on March 21 as punishment for the club's bounty system, including a seasonlong suspension for head coach Sean Payton and eight- and six-game bans for G.M. Mickey Loomis and assistant Joe Vitt. Goodell's decision came four days after a recording of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was leaked. On the tape Williams, speaking before a divisional playoff loss to the 49ers in January, can be heard profanely encouraging his players to attack their opponents' physical weaknesses. "We need to find out ... about [wide receiver Kyle Williams's] concussion," he says. "[Wide receiver Michael Crabtree] becomes human when we f------ take out that outside ACL." He also implores players to target quarterback Alex Smith's chin, running back Frank Gore's head and tight end Vernon Davis's ankles, reminding them that he will pay the bounty for the first hit. The tape was leaked by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who had access to the Saints while working on a documentary about former special teams player Steve Gleason. Williams has not appealed his indefinite suspension.
| DIED |
At age 68 of heart failure, Joe Avezzano, who coached the Cowboys' explosive special teams during three Super Bowl--winning seasons (1993, '94 and '96). A graduate of Florida State, Avezzano (left) started his coaching career in Tallahassee and spent 20 years in college football, including five unsuccessful seasons as Oregon State's head coach. But he found his groove in Dallas, where he grabbed America's attention with his animated sideline expressions. He was named NFL special teams coach of the year in '91, '93 and '98 and in his 12 years there, from '90 through 2001, Dallas tied for second in the NFL with 18 return touchdowns. At the time of his death Avezzano was head coach of the Milano Seamen of the Italian Football League.
| DIED |
At age 83, Joe Scarpa, better known to professional wrestling fans as Chief Jay Strongbow (above). An Italian-American whose mother was of Cherokee descent, Scarpa went by Joltin' Joe Scarpa for the first 23 years of his career. But when promoter Vincent McMahon (later the head of WWE) came looking for a Native American character in 1970, Scarpa put on a feathered headdress and adopted a war dance, tomahawk chop and Indian death lock as his signatures. As Strongbow, he won four WWWF/WWF tag team championships and in '94 was part of the WWE's inaugural Hall of Fame class.