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Sports mysteries solved 

Who Knew?

Reader Stephen Gilmore wrote in to "Who Knew?" with a few questions that really tested my sports knowledge. Seeing as how my sports knowledge is next to nil, I had to get a little help. First, Gilmore wanted to know what's the difference between professional, semi-pro, and amateur athletes, besides the amount of their paychecks?"That is the difference," answered Mark Packer, of WFNZ Sports Radio 610 AM. "When you're an amateur -- for example playing in the NCAA, you can't get paid. But once you sign with an agent, technically, you've lost your amateur status. Semi-pro is for guys who, for whatever reason, can't make the cut to pro. But there are leagues for them to play, where they can hone their skills, and hopefully make it to the next level. Semi-pro guys are paid, but it's not much, especially compared to pro players."

Next, Gilmore asked how come professional and high school basketball games are divided into four periods of 12 and 8 minutes each, respectively, while college basketball games are divided into two periods of 20 minutes each? This one stumped Packer, so he referred me to the only guy who he claimed knew more about sports than him -- his father, former Wake Forest great and longtime national basketball broadcaster Billy Packer.

"College basketball used to be in quarters as well, until the NCAA rules committee decided to do it by halves," said the elder Packer. "As to why -- if all NCAA tournament and rules committee meetings were held in some Brooklyn tenement, the rules would never change. But because they're always held at beautiful resort locations, they have to come up with some reason for being there. That's probably about as good an answer as you're going to get."

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