Friday, January 20, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Education plus economic development equals jobs for graduates
For years, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and the Mississippi Development Authority have nurtured the crucial link between higher education and economic development in the state. On Thursday, they formalized their partnership through a memorandum of understanding. In collaboration with state's eight public universities, the board of trustees and MDA will showcase Mississippi to companies that will create jobs and invest capital. Also at the meeting, an online tool designed to help recent and soon-to-be graduates find jobs in the state,, was introduced. The site was developed by the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center at Mississippi State University.
College Board Partners with MDA to Keep Graduates in State reports since 2014, Mississippi has seen a steep population decline. Out of every 1,000 residents three have left. The Mississippi college board and the state development authority are partnering to change that by promoting economic development. College Board Commissioner Glenn Boyce says public universities are an asset to business recruiters. "They've got specific questions business and industry do about relocating and those specific questions are, how are you going to create a program for whatever my product maybe or whatever my needs maybe," said Boyce. Boyce also says businesses want to know there are enough qualified applicants to support their operation. The partnership includes a new website called Dale Smith with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security says students who register are emailed job listings. Twenty-nine-thousand have registered.
Starkville's PRAM chapter celebrates 25 years
Starkville's Public Relations Association of Mississippi kicked off its 25th year at Harvey's with guest speaker Lorri Freeman. Chapter President John Forde opened the meeting and welcomed guests. An award program followed, and Sasha Steinberg introduced Freeman as the guest speaker. Freeman is the manager of public relations for Singing River Electric Power Association in Lucedale. Freeman emphasized the need to set goals, strategies, objectives, and subjectives, and she expressed the value of earning accreditation. The next PRAM meeting will be Feb. 15 at 11:45 a.m. at Harvey's. The speaker will be John Cohen, and Forde encouraged visitors and members to return, and to bring a friend along to participate.
Proposed lottery impact: MSU-Meridian prof examines the numbers
As Mississippi and Alabama lawmakers prepare to reexamine the possibility of creating a state lottery in each state, a local financial expert is examining how similar ventures have fared in neighboring states. Currently, surrounding states that do have lotteries are Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. Dr. Paul Spurlin is an Assistant Professor of Finance at Mississippi State University's Meridian campus. He recently examined studies about how lotteries in three of those states are faring, and he's now sharing with Newscenter 11 how those results could indicate what could happen in Mississippi.
MSU Riley Center Announces Spring/Summer Lineup
The lineup for the 2017 Spring/Summer series has been announced by the MSU Riley Center in downtown Meridian. "We've got some new, young talent coming in. We've got some established artists who may have been here before. We also have a little bit of everything for everybody. There is going to be an announcement of some really nice entertainment value for Meridian," MSU Riley Center Executive Director Dennis Sankovich says. Tickets will be available at the beginning of February.
MDOT prepares college students for winter weather
It may not feel like it outside lately, but it is winter and the Mississippi Department of Transportation is preparing young drivers for possible snow and ice. MDOT is on its annual winter weather college tour and Thursday they were at Mississippi State University. MDOT says it's all about preparation. There were two MDOT representatives on campus, including Rob Pettit, who offered safe driving tips, ways to prepare your vehicles for the cold weather and ideas on creating an emergency kit. "It's always good to be prepared especially for things like winter weather which we don't get that often in Mississippi but when we do it can have a real impact to travel and local communities," Pettit said. "The tour that we're doing is across North Mississippi."
State Board of Education invites public comment on revised science standards
The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) voted to begin a public comment period on revisions to the Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards (MCCRS) for Science through an online process. "These will be Mississippi standards developed by Mississippi teachers," said Dr. Kim Benton, chief academic officer at the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE). "The MDE has been working with a team of 47 Mississippi science educators in K-12 from across the state and the Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State University for more than a year to update the standards." Comments provided about specific standards will be evaluated by a team of Mississippi educators, content specialists in Science, as well as higher education representatives.
Storms cause heavy rain, wind damage in Mississippi
Powerful storms dumped torrential rains on southern Louisiana and peeled away roofs in a Mississippi community that was hit by a strong tornado Thursday morning, and forecasters said more bad weather was on the way. The National Weather Service said Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia could receive waves of storms through Sunday. The first wave was enough for Michael Koehn, who saw it tear through his rural community of Pine Grove near the town of Magee in southern Mississippi. The NWS confirmed a tornado, rated EF-2, struck Simpson and Smith counties, but there were no reported injuries.
Moving to Mexico? Batesville Casket to close Panola plant
Faced with shrinking demand, the Batesville Casket Co. plant in Panola County will close its doors in March after nearly 30 years in operation. Two hundred are employed at the plant, where hardwood coffins are assembled. The plant was opened in 1988 because "we were looking for a plant located near the Vicksburg facility," Indiana-based parent Batesville Casket Co. stated in a 2005 article in the Mississippi Business Journal. A spokesman for the parent company did not immediately respond to questions from the Journal this week, including whether the Batesville closing would have an effect on the Vicksburg facility, which makes wooden components for caskets. But the company said in an email on Wednesday that it "remains committed to its wood processing plant" at Vicksburg.
Casino developers seeking new deals with new gaming commissioners
Site approval was denied years ago for South Beach Casino on Veterans Avenue in Biloxi and a casino off the Bay of St. Louis in Diamondhead, and now the developers are trying again. "They both reapplied," said Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. The commissioners decided at their meeting Thursday in Jackson to move their February meeting to the Coast. They plan a public hearing on the applications at the end of the regular meeting. A time and place for the meeting will be announced, Godfrey said. The properties haven't changed since site approval was denied. However, the three commissioners have. New commissioners Chairman Al Hopkins and Jerry Griffith Sr., both of Gulfport, and Tom Gresham, who lives in the Delta, will now decide if the properties should be granted site approval.
Mississippi high school graduation rate rises for third year
A larger share of Mississippi high schoolers than ever before are graduating. The state Department of Education announced Thursday that the graduation rate rose to 82.3 percent last year. That's still below the national average of 83.2 percent, but the share of students earning diplomas within four years has been on the rise in Mississippi since 2015. The drop-out rate fell to 10.8 percent from 11.8 percent, moving down for the third consecutive year as graduation rates climb.
EdBuild could cost some local districts
About 55 school districts, or more than one third of the total Mississippi school districts, including Tupelo, would lose state funding if the recommendations of a New Jersey-based education consulting nonprofit hired by legislative leaders to help rewrite Mississippi's school funding formula are carried out. The others in Northeast Mississippi that would receive less state funding under the EdBuIld recommendations are Oxford, Starkville-Oktibbeha, Baldwyn and Aberdeen. "These are just recommendations," said Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, saying the final decision on any rewrite of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program rests with the Legislature. "We are aware of all the issues."
Pascagoula Sen. Brice Wiggins files bill funneling BP settlement money into Tidelands funds
Sen. Brice Wiggins told the Pascagoula City Council during his legislative address last year to "pull up your britches and get ready for a fight" when discussing BP funds. With the subject of BP/Deepwater Horizon settlement dollars high on the Coast delegation's mind this legislative session, Wiggins filed Senate Bill 2285 proposing a process for distributing these funds. The bill proposes that 95 percent of the BP settlement funds, be deposited annually into the Public Trust Tidelands Fund, with the option for the money to be housed in the Gulf Restoration Fund, the bill touted by Gov. Phil Bryant in his State of the State address Wednesday night. "The Tidelands Trust Fund is already an established entity and the process for appropriating projects is already relatively familiar to citizens and entities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Wiggins said.
Gang bill back on the table
Officials say in reality, gang crime is on the rise all over Mississippi and all around the rest of the country. A bill before the Mississippi Senate would add enhanced penalties to crimes committed by validated gang members, and Gov. Phil Bryant and others say it's a major strike in the fight against violent crime in the Magnolia state. "This is organized crime, and we should treat it as such," Bryant told The Clarion-Ledger. "This bill will help enhance the penalties. Just like when you're caught committing a crime with a gun, there's an enhanced penalty, if you're caught as a member of a gang related to a criminal activity, there'll be an enhanced penalty. And there should be." Bryant said parts of Senate Bill 2027 also deal with gang activity inside the Department of Corrections, where he said there are more than 2,500 identified members of the Gangster Disciples alone. The Aryan Brotherhood, Vice Lords, and other prominent gangs are also very active within the corrections system, he said.
Tax offices upgrade computers, anticipate new auto insurance requirements
Mississippi tax assessors are busy preparing to implement a new vehicle registration system that may help with stricter auto insurance enforcement. House Bill 319, which passed the Mississippi House of Representatives on an 82-33 vote on Jan. 11, would require motorists to show proof of auto insurance to renew vehicle registration. Mississippi has compulsory auto insurance laws, according to the Mississippi Department of Revenue, but does not enforce them through vehicle registration. Mississippi District 37 Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) said HB 319 will change that. "You're required to have insurance, but 28 percent of people don't," Chism said. "With this bill, you're going to be required to have some. At least for that month, you're going to have insurance, or you're not going to get a tag. I think it was a much-needed bill."
Videt Carmichael named 2017 Vice Chair of PEER Committee
Meridian native and State Republican Senator Videt Carmichael, who represents District 33, was elected 2017 Vice Chairman of the Legislative PEER Committee. Carmichael is Chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee and Vice Chair of the Senate Investigate State Offices Committee. The retired educator, who was educated at Clarkdale High School, has served in the Legislature since 2000. Carmichael is Chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee and Vice Chairman of the Senate Investigate State Offices Committee. District 33 includes Clarke and Lauderdale counties.
Ray Mabus named Harvard visiting fellow
Two former governors and a former U.S. senator have been named visiting fellows at the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics at Harvard University. The school announced Thursday that former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire; former Democratic governor of Vermont Peter Shumlin; and former Democratic governor of Mississippi and U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will serve as visiting fellows this spring. Along with six resident fellows , they will meet with students and faculty as part of the institute's efforts to encourage interest in public life and increase interaction between the academic and political communities.
In Bipartisan Nod, GOP-Led Mississippi Senate Commends Obama
The Republican-led Mississippi Legislature has resisted much of President Barack Obama's agenda, but in an apparent bipartisan gesture of goodwill, the state Senate adopted a resolution Thursday calling the Democrat "one of the most consequential presidents in recent history." Senate President Pro Tempore Terry Burton, a Republican, brought the resolution up for a vote just as lawmakers were preparing to leave for the weekend. He said that "politics aside, party aside," only 44 people have served as president, and holding the office is an honor.
Mississippians excited about inauguration
Ray Childress of West Point couldn't make the rallies when Donald Trump came to Mississippi last year, but he was determined to make it to the President-elect's swearing-in even if it was thousands of miles away. "It's going to be historic," said Childress, 73. "I really feel like Donald Trump has this nation at heart." Childress along with his wife, Helen, and their 11-year-old grandchild, Ava East, stopped by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's office Thursday to pick up their tickets to Friday's inauguration. They were among the scores of Mississippians on Capitol Hill visiting their lawmakers' offices to pick up free tickets for inauguration events, including the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. The 200-member marching band from Tupelo High School even stopped by to meet and take pictures with Republican Sen. Roger Wicker. The band will be the only one from Mississippi to participate in the inaugural parade. "What a thrill that was,'' said Wicker after greeting the students on the steps of a Senate office building.
Trio of local Republican women in DC for inauguration
Norma Sanders, Rissa Lawrence and Brenda Willis started planning for Friday's presidential inauguration before even Team Trump. "As soon as Trump won the election, we started planning," said Sanders. "It was a given we would go." The three women have strong ties to the Republican Party. Sanders was an alternate delegate to the GOP Convention in Cleveland in July. All three are members of Lowndes County Republican Women, with both Lawrence and Willis having served as the group's president at one time. The trio arrived in Washington Tuesday evening. The women spent Wednesday calling on members of the Mississippi congressional delegation, including visits to the offices of U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, as well as U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly.
Take Five with Roger Wicker: Mississippi Republican disappointed in members boycotting inauguration
Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, 65, talks inauguration advice for the new president, members' boycott of Friday's event, and what's on his reading list with Roll Call.
As Trump's 'roll-back cabinet' takes charge, lessons from Reagan era
You could dub them the "roll-back cabinet" -- Donald Trump's nominees who are hostile to the very government agencies that they have been selected to lead. As a nation, America has been here before. Historians point to 1981, when Ronald Reagan also appointed cabinet secretaries who wanted to dismantle policies and programs in the departments they led. In his first inaugural address, the Republican famously declared that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." His cabinet reflected that conservative view. Today's president-elect may not have the ideological purity of Reagan, but many of his cabinet choices are just as conservative, if not more so. They will be able to make serious inroads on policies they reject -- if they don't overreach, observers say.
Trump team prepares dramatic cuts
Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending. Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday's presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned. The changes they propose are dramatic. The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.
Obama is ready for life after the White House -- but first, he'll retreat to Palm Springs
President Obama will begin the day Friday amid the pomp of Inauguration Day and end it in a way he hasn't in eight years --- without a coterie of aides, a slate of briefings or a trailing gaggle of reporters, as he hands over power and retreats to the quiet of the Palm Springs desert where former presidents before him have found escape. After he witnesses the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol at noon, Obama will take his final flight aboard the presidential aircraft -- it will no longer be Air Force One, as the sitting president will not be aboard -- and begin recuperating from a tumultuous campaign season and intense transition that punctuated his presidency. Obama isn't the first former president to get away to the vicinity of the historic Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, where he has taken several golf vacations and hosted foreign leaders over the past eight years.
Tennessee Valley Authority Elects 1st African-American Chair
A federal agency in Tennessee has elected an African-American to be chairperson for the first time in its 83-year history. V. Lynn Evans will also be the first woman, and the first person from Memphis, to lead the Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity across parts of seven southeastern states, among other services. The Anguilla, Mississippi, native has a bachelor's degree in accounting from Jackson State University.
Cooper Tire trainer co-teaches Ole Miss engineering winter session
When Nichole Williams asked seven University of Mississippi students to draw a pig on graph paper, they all thought it would be easy. But the chemical engineering alumna, who has found career success at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in Tupelo, wasn't the least bit impressed. "Those are not good," she said. "Let's try it again. Only this time, I will give you step-by-step instructions." The results? "Much, much better," Williams said, smiling as she looked at the drawings. Williams returned to her alma mater earlier this month at the request of John O'Haver, professor and chair of chemical engineering, to lead Six Sigma Green Belt Training. Williams, leader for the Cooper Tupelo facility's process capability improvement efforts, said she was honored and happy to be invited to temporarily join the Ole Miss faculty.
USM receives White House Healthy Campus distinction
House Healthy Campus due to the work of the Mississippi Health Access Collaborative (MHAC), an effort of the School of Social Work's Center for Discovery, Integration, and Transformation. The White House Healthy Campus Challenge was established to engage university and community college campuses across the country in a variety of activities that encourage enrollment in Marketplace coverage, a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Based on MHAC's outreach actions this fall, Southern Miss was awarded the distinction and Project Director Kathryn Rehner and School of Social Work Director Dr. Tim Rehner were invited to participate in Healthy Campus Challenge Day at the White House Jan. 13, 2017, and First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the participants.
Rod Paige mobilizes groups to reclaim Jackson State's 'former brilliance'
Dr. Rod Paige, interim president of Jackson State University, is assembling advanced development groups to resolve the university's financial crisis. Faculty, students and alumni have expressed their concerns about cost-cutting decisions that could harm the quality of education and experience at the university. No final decisions have been made, says university spokesman Danny Blanton, however "nothing is off the table." Paige describes JSU's financial issues as a "bitter taste of medicine." "Mississippi needs Jackson State," Paige said during Thursday's Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees meeting in Jackson. "We will make sure it reclaims its former brilliance."
Rod Paige: Hearing showed Betsy DeVos threat to status quo
Former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige said the Senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos illustrated how threatened opponents of education reform are by her nomination. "Some of the questions I thought were questions designed more to derail the situation than to make judgments about high quality leadership in the U.S. Department of Education," Paige said during an editorial board meeting with The Clarion-Ledger. In comparing DeVos' hearing to his own before becoming President George W. Bush's first education secretary in 2001, Paige said he had a much easier time of it. The interim president of Jackson State University said the difference is that DeVos represents "some reasonably dangerous change" to opponents of education reform, a group he calls "the guardians of the status quo." But Paige, a Mississippi native, says change is needed and that DeVos will provide an opportunity to reshape an educational system he believes is in "a state of stagnation."
U. of Tennessee band director: Playing at inaugural parade 'not about politics'
More than 300 students from the University of Tennessee's Pride of the Southland marching band will follow President-elect Donald Trump down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning during the inaugural parade, a tradition the UT band has been a part of for nearly every presidential inauguration dating back to 1953. UT is among a handful of collegiate groups that will be represented at Friday's ceremonies. The decision to participate in the parade has generated some controversy, including from an online petition that said by playing at the inauguration the band was condoning racist and sexist remarks made by Trump. University of Tennessee marching band to perform in Trump's inaugural parade. As band members boarded buses for D.C. on Wednesday morning, Band Director Don Ryder said the decision to play in the inauguration "is not about politics" but rather about the opportunity for students to play at an event they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Experts from Texas A&M weigh in on Trump, Obama legacies
As outgoing President Barack Obama officially transfers control to incoming President Donald Trump this morning, both men enter into a new stage in forging their respective legacies. Both historic in their own right, experts from Texas A&M University and the Bush School of Government and Public Service said although their legacies will continue to be defined and re-evaluated in the coming years, there are many observations that could give an idea as to the defining characteristics of each. While Obama will largely be powerless to influence the future events and decisions that may come to define how his achievements in office will be perceived, experts said Trump's unpredictability makes it hard to forecast what effects his decisions will have.
Six Sigma Nu members at Texas A&M indicted on drug charges
Six members of the Sigma Nu fraternity were among 34 people indicted Thursday by a Brazos County Grand Jury on drug charges. Aaron Douglas Spring, 20, Cole Chase Teel-Jongebloed, 20, Andrew Davis Hyman, 21, Alexander Hadden Statler, 22, and Michael Frymire, 20, were all indicted on state jail felony possession of a controlled substance charges. Samuel Crawford Patterson, 21, was indicted on three manufacture or delivery of controlled substance charges and two possession charges. Two of the charges he was indicted on are first-degree felony charges that carry a prison sentence of five to 99 years. The men were initially arrested in the aftermath of the Aug. 20 death of Anton Gridnev, a Texas A&M student. Autopsy results determined Gridnev died of an accidental drug overdose at the fraternity house.
Education Department Facing Culture Shift Under Trump
A presidential transition always triggers some makeover at federal agencies. But when President-elect Donald Trump's team takes power this month, the transformation of the U.S. Department of Education could be particularly striking. The incoming president and his team have promised to change the culture -- or "drain the swamp" -- in Washington, with serious implications for the federal bureaucracy. And on the campaign trail, Trump pledged to get rid of the Education Department -- or at least cut it "way, way down." That would be a tough political lift, even with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. But the sentiment has triggered plenty of anxiety about the kind of resources and attention the department can expect from the new administration. It's too early to say just how much will change at the Education Department when Trump takes office at noon on Jan. 20. But conditions are ripe for a culture shift.
A 'Shot Over the Bow': Groups Respond to Reported Plan to Cut Arts and Humanities Endowments
Supporters of the arts and humanities on Thursday sounded unanimous alarm over an article in The Hill reporting that President-elect Donald J. Trump's administration plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Neither endowment is commenting on the newspaper's report. But private organizations that team up with the federal cultural endowments are worried. Combined, the two agencies accounted for a little under $300 million of the $3.9 trillion in the 2016 congressional budget. Funding for the NEH and NEA has not changed significantly under President Obama, though Republicans have frequently targeted the two agencies over the years for cuts and criticism.
Arts groups gear up for fight over NEA
Advocates for the arts and public broadcasting are sounding the alarm over possible cuts to federal funding that one lawmaker said could be a sign of a cultural dark age under Donald Trump's presidency. The Hill reported Thursday that the Trump transition team is considering privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CBP) and eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat whose district includes the city of Memphis, said arts programs were essential to his constituents. "On the eve of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, I fear that America will soon be thrust into cultural and societal deterioration, a new Dark Ages," he said in a statement. National endowment grants typically go to museums, universities, libraries and individual artists or scholars.
Humanities advocates alarmed by reports that Trump's first budget will seek to kill NEH and NEA
Reports circulated Thursday, the day before the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, that his first budget would propose the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Many NEH grants involving higher education are small compared to those awarded by the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health. But these grants are frequently the most significant outside support available for humanities research and education. And the grants are particularly helpful to humanities departments at a time when many aren't receiving the kind of support professors say is needed.
FBI officials warn college students of scams disguised as job offers
FBI officials are warning college students across the country to be wary of "phony job opportunities," according to a statement released Wednesday. Officials said the scams are often conducted through false postings on college employment websites and recruitment emails sent to school accounts. Once the job is accepted, officials said the student is asked to send funds to another individual or entity posing as a vendor who sells supposedly necessary equipment, materials or software for the job. In return, the student is sent a counterfeit check to make up for the cost of the purchase.

Chinwe Okorie, No. 4 Mississippi State Women Top Alabama 67-54
Mississippi State forced a turnover 11 seconds into the second half, and didn't let up the rest of that 10-minute period. Chinwe Okorie had 15 points and eight rebounds and the fourth-ranked Bulldogs overwhelmed Alabama in the third quarter en route to a 67-54 victory Thursday night to remain unbeaten. "I thought they really took it to us the first half and I was proud of how we responded after a halftime chit chat," Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer said. "We came out in the third quarter, that's our team. Forcing turnovers. Getting out in transition. Good execution on the half court." It was a school season-record ninth road win for Mississippi State (20-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference), the first team in the nation to reach 20 wins.
No. 4 Mississippi State dominates Alabama women's basketball
At "We Back Pat" night at Coleman Coliseum on Thursday, the No. 4-ranked Mississippi State women's basketball team did exactly what the late legendary coach Pat Summit's Tennessee teams used to do to the Crimson Tide. It dominated. The 67-54 win by the SEC's top team was largely propelled by a suffocating defense that wreaked havoc on the Crimson Tide, forcing the home team to turn the ball over a season-high 29 times. Halfway into the game Alabama had already coughed the ball up more than 13 times, just three away from eclipsing its average for an entire game at 15.8. "We knew that it was going to be a very intense, running back-and-forth game, but we shouldn't let that control our speed," Alabama guard Hannah Cook said. "We shouldn't play their speed. We just need to take care of the ball more."
Gamecocks wax Ole Miss, set up showdown with Mississippi State
They missed A'ja Wilson, no doubt about it. So South Carolina made sure she'd be welcomed back in the best way possible -- by not depending on her. The Gamecocks whipped Ole Miss 65-46 on Thursday, doing what they've done all year (targeting Alaina Coates), letting the flavor-of-the-week guard pace them early (Allisha Gray) and relying on the ever-improving ball-handling of freshman point guard Ty Harris to keep them ahead of the Rebels' uptempo pace. Yet there was no need to play her 40 minutes, not so soon after missing two games with a bum ankle and with the next game now here. And it is here, where they can focus all their energy on it -- undefeated and fourth-ranked Mississippi State, in Columbia on Monday, for a showdown in what may determine the regular-season championship. "We know that this will probably be the game that decides it all," Coates said.
Injury ends Westin Graves' kicking career at Mississippi State
Westin Graves' kicking days are done at Mississippi State. The junior kicker announced in an open letter to Bulldog fans that his career has been cut short due to a back injury. Graves sustained the injury during the summer and played through the pain this season before having surgery following the St. Petersburg Bowl. Graves was 11 of 19 on field goal attempts this past fall with a career-long 48-yarder in the season-opener against South Alabama. The Flowood native finishes his career 26 of 38 on field goal tries and 104 of 108 on extra points.
Back surgery ends Westin Graves' career at Mississippi State
Westin Graves' career at Mississippi State is over, the kicker announced through social media Thursday. Graves had one year of eligibility remaining, but the threat of reinjuring his surgically repaired back outweighed a fourth season with the Bulldogs. In a letter to "the Bulldog Family," Graves said he had surgery to repair discs in his back after the St. Petersburg Bowl. The procedure was successful, but he said another football season would result in future injuries. "This was a difficult decision and one I have spent weeks thinking about and praying for an answer to," Graves said in the letter. "Though one door has closed, I look forward to opportunities that life will bring."
Managing threats: Coyotes, feral pigs pose problems for habitat
With winter finally in high gear and many hunting seasons winding down, land managers looking to improve their habitat need seek no farther than programs for hog removal and coyote control. Populations of wild pigs in every shape, size and color are quickly on the rise across Mississippi, and an aggressive control program undertaken one property at a time appears to be the only recourse. These opportunistic omnivores are hardy, effectively have no predators other than man, reproduce quickly and wreak havoc on any habitat they occupy, and officials with the Mississippi State University Extension Service say a permanent solution that gets rid of wild hogs anywhere once and for all is unlikely ever to be found, which means continuous population control is the way to go.
Greg Byrne introduced as Alabama's athletic director
Call him Greg, he said. New University of Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne won't take the same informal title as his predecessor, Coach Bill Battle. He didn't ask that he be called 'Mr. Byrne.' That may remind him of his father, Bill Byrne, who had been athletics director at Oregon, Nebraska and Texas A&M. Greg Byrne is neither of those men, though he's following them both. He grew up watching his father's career path. He'll assume Battle's duties on March 1. "Having grown up in collegiate athletics my entire life, you just looked at Alabama as the pinnacle," Byrne said. "I just can't believe how fortunate we are to be here and be a part of it." Byrne arrives after seven years of leading the University of Arizona's athletics department, and spent three years as Mississippi State's AD. He doesn't have direct ties to UA, but is no stranger to many of his colleagues around the country.
U. of Tennessee issues statement on AD search
The University of Tennessee issued a statement Wednesday night to shed light on the search for a new athletic director. The gist: A hire is not imminent. The statement, originating from the university office, was read on UT's weekly "Vol Calls" radio show and follows several days on campus by incoming UTK Chancellor Beverly Davenport. T announced last August that athletic director Dave Hart will be retiring in June 2017. The search for Hart's successor has been prolonged by the search for and hiring of Davenport as chancellor. Currently serving as interim president at the University of Cincinnati, she begins work here Feb. 15. Hart is attending the NCAA convention in Nashville this week.
With Mike VII, here's how LSU could potentially become an accredited tiger sanctuary
The next Mike the Tiger will not be paraded around LSU football games as cheerleaders ride atop his golden cage --- a major departure as the university seeks to simultaneously continue and update the decades-old tradition of keeping a live mascot on campus. LSU announced on Thursday that the university expects to have a new tiger by August, just in time for football season. But some of Mike VII's experiences will differ from his predecessor, Mike VI, who died in October after battling cancer. The next tiger will not attend home football games, will live in a newly renovated habitat and his home may have the title of tiger sanctuary. "Times change, public perception changes," said Mike's longtime veterinarian, David Baker, who will hand pick the next tiger.

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