WNBA teams will have less time to shoot and will play 10-minute quarters next season under rule changes approved yesterday by the league.

When the WNBA begins its 10th season next year, the shot clock will be shortened from 30 seconds to 24 seconds. Also, 20-minute halves will be dropped in favor of 10-minute quarters.

The shot clock will be reset to 14 seconds when a defensive foul or other defensive violation occurs with less than 14 seconds remaining. It will be left unchanged when a defensive violation occurs with 14 seconds or more left. "It will force teams to run more, I hope," said Connecticut Coach Mike Thibault.

The new rules also limit the jump ball to start a new period to the opening tip-off and overtime. The winner of the opening tip will receive the ball out of bounds at the start of the fourth quarter. The loser gets possession at the start of the second and third quarters.

Jump balls will still be used to determine possession after a held ball, and teams will be limited to four team fouls a quarter before getting bonus free throws.

* COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt says he has apologized to West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez for leaving the Mountaineers off his ballot in the coaches' top 25 football poll.

Nutt said he had voted for West Virginia in previous weeks but that, while shuffling teams listed in the USA Today poll, he inadvertently left the Mountaineers off the ballot. He said he would have listed West Virginia at No. 13.

Nutt said Rodriguez understood that a mistake happened and "was very gracious about it."

West Virginia finished the regular season No. 11 in both the Associated Press and the coaches' polls. The 13 points West Virginia did not receive would not have been enough to move the team into the coaches' top 10. . . .

UCLA's Marcedes Lewis won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. Lewis, a senior, set career highs with 58 receptions, 741 yards and 10 touchdowns, all UCLA records for a tight end.

The other finalists were Maryland's Vernon Davis and Notre Dame's Anthony Fasano.

* AUTO RACING: NASCAR officials are "extremely disappointed" in Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other drivers who failed to attend the season-ending awards ceremonies.

"It shows a lack of respect for the history and tradition of the sport," spokesman Jim Hunter said.

NASCAR President Mike Helton plans to speak with the drivers who failed to attend last week's ceremonies in New York, Hunter said. The sanctioning body also is considering ways to ensure future attendance. Also absent were Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne. . . .

Scott Speed, a 22-year-old Californian, was chosen to drive next season for the Scuderia Toro Rosso team. He's the first American in the Formula One series since Michael Andretti in 1993.

* SOCCER: AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven and Glasgow Rangers made it to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, while Liverpool's 0-0 tie at Chelsea meant the defending champion finished top of its group.

Milan edged Germany's Schalke, 3-2; PSV beat Fenerbahce, 2-0; and Rangers held Inter Milan to a 1-1 tie to become the first Scottish team to reach the knockout stage since the competition changed format.

Olympiakos, already eliminated, upset Real Madrid, 2-1; and Lyon beat Rosenborg, 2-1.

* HOCKEY: Sabres forward J.P. Dumont will be out for eight to 12 weeks after surgery to repair a sports hernia, and forward Taylor Pyatt will be out for two to three months after surgery to place a pin in his fractured right wrist.

* GOLF: Tiger Woods won the PGA Tour player of the year award for the seventh time in his nine full seasons, the final prize in a year that featured two major championships among his six tour titles.

-- From News Services