NFL and Walsh closer to sypgate agreement

NEW YORK -- Matt Walsh, the former New England Patriots employee said to have tapes of illegal spying by the team, is close to an agreement to turn over information to the NFL.

The NFL said in a statement Sunday night that in the last week, lawyers for Walsh and the league have made "substantial progress toward an agreement that will allow Mr. Walsh to be interviewed."

"Both sides are optimistic that any remaining issues can be addressed successfully and they are committed to reaching a full agreement as promptly as possible," the statement added.

Walsh, a golf pro in Hawaii, has been seeking protection from lawsuits and other legal action, whether by the Patriots or other parties. The two sides have been negotiating for almost a month after reports surfaced just before the Super Bowl that Walsh videotaped a walkthrough practice of the St. Louis Rams before the 2002 title game. It was won by the Patriots 20-17 over the Rams, who were favored by more than two touchdowns.

Walsh's lawyer, Michael N. Levy of the Washington firm of McKee Nelson, confirmed Sunday night that an agreement was near.

"I have consistently asked the NFL to provide appropriate legal protections for Mr. Walsh," Levy said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

"In recent discussions I have had with the league's lawyer, we have made substantial progress toward this end, and I am hopeful that we will be able to craft an agreement with the necessary legal protections so Mr. Walsh can come forward with the truth."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said Walsh was not interviewed as part of the league's investigation into "Spygate," which involved the league confiscating tapes from a Patriots employee who recorded the New York Jets' defensive signals from the sideline during the opening game of the 2007 season.

Six confiscated tapes and other documents pertaining to the Patriots' taping were subsequently destroyed by the league. Goodell has defended the destruction of the tapes.

As a result of that investigation, New England coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team was fined $250,000 and forfeited its 2008 first-round draft choice. That pick would have been 31st overall, but New England still has the seventh overall pick, obtained in a trade with San Francisco last year.

• COLLEGE BASKETBALL -- Barry Hinson, who failed to take Missouri State to the NCAA tournament in nine seasons, was fired.

Hinson had anticipated the move, which came two days after a 63-58 loss to Illinois State in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley tournament. In a release, the school said it had "reached an understanding that the program needs to go in a different direction."

• PREP SOFTBALL -- The Nation Ford JV softball team won the tournament championship at the Carolina Invitational JV Softball tournament held this weekend at White Knoll High School in Lexington.

The Falcons went 4-0, defeating Pelion, Abbeville, White Knoll, and North Augusta.

Haley Hammond, Donna Hollingsworth, and Bradlee Holeman were named to the All-Tournament team Bradlee was also named the tournament MVP.