Leading Off

Lofton joins Raiders

Hall of Famer James Lofton officially joined the Oakland Raiders coaching staff Wednesday, taking over as the team's new receivers coach. Lofton, who played two seasons for the Raiders during his career, had interviewed the past two seasons to be the team's head coach, but lost out to Art Shell in 2006 and Lance Kiffin a year ago. Lofton spent the past six seasons as receivers coach for the Chargers before being fired last month after San Diego's loss to New England in the AFC championship game.

Vitale back on air after throat surgery

Dick Vitale's first "Welcome Back" came well before the start of Wednesday's Duke-North Carolina game. College basketball's signature analyst-ambassador arrived at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Wednesday about five hours before he was to return to the air after two months away while he underwent and recovered from throat surgery. And Vitale couldn't believe the reception he received. "This is unbelievable. It's been like this since Dec. 5 when I found out about the lesions in my throat," said Vitale, a man who admits he's emotional most of the time anyway. "The phone calls, the notes and letters, the gift baskets. How lucky can a man be? On Dec. 5 I never thought I'd be here again."

High schooler admits Cal story wasn't true

A Nevada prep football player who had claimed he was duped into believing he was recruited to play at Cal admitted Wednesday he made up the story. Kevin Hart, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman for Fernley High School, offered a broad apology in a statement he issued through the Lyon County School District. Hart said he had wanted to play football at a Division I school "more than anything." Hart announced at a school assembly and a news conference Friday that he would sign with Cal over Oregon, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported. But Monday, officials at Cal and Oregon said Hart was never recruited. Lyon County sheriff's detectives had been unable to corroborate Hart's claims that he had been duped by a man he paid to help promote him to college football programs.

From Heat to Suns: O'Neal heading west

The Phoenix Suns acquired Shaquille O'Neal in a blockbuster deal that sent four-time All-Star Shawn Marion to the Miami Heat. Page C-3