Wednesday, February 1, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Mississippi State students in limbo after Trump's executive order
For 80 Mississippi State University students, President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel for natives of seven Muslim countries is a short-term ban that could have long-term consequences. "We're in shock," said Ashkan Khalili, a student from Iran who is set to earn his doctorate in aerospace engineering this spring. "We don't know what this means. Do we stay? If we do, then what? Do we go back? If we do, will we be allowed to return? Even the immigration attorneys don't know the answers. It's just confusion." Caught up in the controversy are the 80 MSU students, most of them enrolled in the university's doctoral programs in engineering.
 
Employment workshop at MSU-Meridian Thursday
Local job seekers needing help in their search for work are encouraged to attend a workshop in Meridian Thursday. The seminar, which will be held at the Kahlmus Auditorium at MSU-Meridian 1000 Highway 19 North, will offer interview tips, mock interviews with area professionals, resume assistance, and tips on how to dress for success. The workshop, which will be held from 3:30- 5 p.m. and 5-6:30 p.m., is for anyone planning on attending the Governor's Job Fair planned for Feb. 9. No registration is required.
 
Landowners, LINK extend industrial park property options
The Golden Triangle Development LINK and the three primary families that own property designated to become Oktibbeha County's newest industrial park have agreed to extend land purchase options beyond a legal dispute that, at best, will delay the park's construction until next year. Plans to develop roughly 360 acres near the intersection of Highways 182 and 389 for a new industrial park were put on hold this month after members of the Bell family -- a number of landowners surrounding the proposed park -- filed a bill of exceptions in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court against the city's rezoning of the proposed site's land to manufacturing and challenged Starkville's recently approved comprehensive plan.
 
MDOT, FBI address efforts against human trafficking
Representatives from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation met at Mississippi State University Tuesday to hold a press conference on a crime that is becoming an increasing threat. "Behind the drug trade, the human trafficking sector has become one of the most profitable of all, and one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises, as well," said MDOT Commissioner Mike Tagert. "It may seem that this is a global issue to those of us that live in a very rural state." Tagert said more than 150 human trafficking incidents had been reported in Mississippi since 2016, with 40 in 2016 alone.
 
Lending a home: Starkville shelter offers comfort after disaster
For the last four months, Starkville's temporary shelter has offered the victims of house fires a way to stay together as a family. The Pecan Acres building, owned by the Starkville Housing Authority and last used as a day care, was renovated by volunteers into a two-bedroom home, complete with a kitchen, living room and dining room. The work on the shelter began in April 2016 with the building ready for residents in mid-September 2016. "If a house burns, the family can stay here from three days to seven days," said Starkville Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough. "We help them with the transition to permament housing. To date, we've had six families use it. We had a couple of families that chose not to stay, and we had one time where there were two structure fires and only one could stay here."
 
Campaign finance reports trickle in with reforms pending
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has amassed a huge campaign war chest --- more than $4.3 million --- and has been sitting on it, saving up, most political observers expect, to run for governor in 2019. Attorney General Jim Hood, considered a likely Democratic challenger for governor, last year raised $297,000 and has $318,000 in the bank -- not earth shattering, but enough to keep him in the hunt. Gov. Phil Bryant, serving his last term, spent his more than $1 million campaign kitty down to zero. He transferred nearly $761,000 to a political action committee he created, Imagine Mississippi PAC, and spent much of the rest donating to other candidates and PACs and charities and on travel to political meetings and events such as the Republican Governors Association or to meet with now-President Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York. Mississippi politicians faced a 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday for filing campaign finance reports covering Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 of 2016.
 
Education funding formula still alive
The legislative leadership still is not revealing how they plan to rewrite the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which is the funding formula that sends about $2.2 billion in state funds to local school districts. Tuesday was the deadline to pass out of committee bills in the originating chamber. But both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves pushed through committee in their respective chambers what is known as "a dummy," or placeholder, bill. The bill keeps alive all the legal code section so that changes to the school funding formula can be made later in the process. The daunting process of rewriting the Adequate Education Program began in October when, in a surprise news conference, Gunn and Reeves announced the hiring of New Jersey-based EdBuild to make recommendations on the rewrite. They said MAEP, the single largest expenditure in the state budget, needed to be rewritten because it was outdated.
 
No funding map, lawmakers say property-rich areas won't lose
It could be weeks before Mississippians see any real proposals from their representatives on a new school funding formula, but some lawmakers said Tuesday they won't require any districts to contribute more property taxes -- something that could markedly drive up costs of other changes recommended by a consultant. The Senate Education and House Appropriations committees advanced bills Tuesday that are mostly placeholders with plans to be added later. Critics assailed the "dummy" bills, saying the state is ill-served by secrecy and limited debate on a decision that could affect Mississippi children for decades. "You don't know how much it's going to cost; you don't know how it affects your local schools, you don't know how it's going to affect local taxes," said Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson. "You know nothing, and you're being asked to vote for it." Leaders of the House committee also had no formula to offer.
 
Deadline fails to bring specifics on school funding
Legislators took steps Tuesday to ensure they can make changes to the state public school funding formula without revealing at this time what that might look like. Tuesday was the deadline for bills to pass out of committee or die. So the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill Tuesday afternoon that brings forward code sections of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or the state's current school funding formula. The Senate Education Committee did the same. Essentially a "dummy bill," the move makes it possible for lawmakers to amend the law in the future despite having no specific changes to the funding formula ready by deadline day.
 
House committee passes MAEP rewrite bill with no details
Lawmakers in Mississippi's statehouse Tuesday advanced bills to rewrite the current school funding formula, but details of how they plan to do so remain unknown. The House Appropriations Committee passed House Bill 1294 on a voice vote. Hours later the Senate Education Committee passed a similar measure 10-4. Both bills also included provisions that would change the way the state's school districts report their financial disclosures for the purpose of financial accountability. The concept is to make it easier to trace how amounts allocated for certain purposes, such as funds dedicated to special needs learners, are actually spent. In the Senate Education Committee, Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said he appreciated the effort to provide transparency. He then pivoted. "The people want to know what the plan is. They're entitled to know what the plan is, and you're entitled to know it, before you vote for it," Blount said in a nearly 10-minute speech.
 
Mississippi Arts Commission survives as stand-alone agency
The Mississippi Arts Commission is on track to survive as a stand-alone state agency. Two bills that died Tuesday proposed dissolving the Arts Commission into Mississippi Development Authority. The change was pushed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who said arts promotion should be handled by the agency that pursues jobs and promotes tourism. Arts advocates said the change would hurt a small-budget commission that has a big impact on artists and students. It's unclear whether other bills could be rewritten later to dissolve the commission.
 
House panel approves brewery sales
Mississippi moved closer to stepping into the 21st century, lawmakers said Tuesday, by approving a once-controversial measure to allow craft breweries to sell their products on site. The House Ways and Means Committee, which deals with taxation issues, voted to send House Bill 1322 for consideration by the full House. Provisions of the bill state that breweries that sell less than 60,000 barrels of beer can sell customers up to two cases of beer per day between 7 a.m. and midnight. Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, said the bill would not only bring Mississippi into the 21st century but also make the state competitive with neighboring states that allow brewery sales. "When this bill is passed in a final form, we will have, at no cost to the state, additional jobs created in the state," said Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston.
 
'Give our bills an opportunity,' House Democrats plead
Democratic representatives want to create more jobs, make the state safer and ensure a fair workplace this legislative session, according to Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis. Baria and his colleagues presented the House Democratic Caucus' legislative priorities during a press conference Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the 8 p.m. deadline for bills to pass out of committee. Baria said Democratic legislators are frequently told by committee chairmen, most of whom are Republicans, that their bills will not be taken up. "We're becoming accustomed to that, but that doesn't make it right," Baria told Mississippi Today. "So we want to underscore the fact that we have good ideas and our ideas need to be heard and need to be considered along with the Republican agenda."
 
Local legislators: Security key in Trump ban
In responding to refugee restrictions and a partial travel ban implemented by President Donald Trump, Mississippi's Congressional delegation is emphasizing the need to keep the United State secure while mostly declining to weigh in on the details of the ban. The Daily Journal contacted Mississippi's entire delegation seeking reactions to an executive order Trump issued last week that sparked protests at major U.S. airports Sen. Roger Wicker and Sen. Thad Cochran, both Republicans, declined to answer direct questions about whether they back the specific policies Trump enacted last week by executive order. Both instead simply emphasized the need to ensure domestic security.
 
Despite Western roots, nominee Neil Gorsuch fits Supreme Court's Ivy League cast
Judge Neil Gorsuch seems to be a conservative tailor-made for the Supreme Court, albeit with a Western cut. His Ivy League education fits in with the other justices, four of whom are fellow Harvard Law School graduates. Like three of his potential colleagues, he held a coveted clerkship at the high court. His deft writing style wins scholarly acclaim. If confirmed, the 49-year-old judge on a Denver-based appeals court would also bring with him distinctive Western experience that's rare on the East Coast-dominated high court. He is a polished writer and public speaker with a genial aspect, not unlike Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. Many liberals and Democrats will oppose him, for various reasons, but he appears to fit within the judicial mainstream. Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell, who served with Gorsuch on the 10th Circuit, said he showed a "temperamental moderation."
 
In Bible Belt, Trump's big move brings both cheers and caution
When Janet Willis saw thousands of protesters descending on Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta to protest President Trump's executive order on immigration, her first thought was not to drop everything and join them. It was: "Why aren't they at work?" Towns like Swords, Buckhead, and Rutledge -- dotted with hay fields, tin-roofed barns, and sawmills – seem as far away from chaotic airport scenes as one can get. Residents like Willis say they are the "forgotten America" to which Trump gave voice. But here in the Bible Belt, even among strong support for Trump, there is a thread of concern, particularly over the actions targeting refugees and immigrants. Some of the churches here are the ones who send missionaries and aid workers abroad -- and welcome the refugees who arrive here. Others preach from the pulpit, as one local sermon did Sunday, of the need for "radical hospitality" -- the Biblical imperative to always greet the stranger with warmth.
 
Staffers' secret work on immigration order rattles the Capitol
News that House Judiciary Committee staffers secretly collaborated on President Donald Trump's controversial immigration order reverberated through the Capitol on Tuesday: Democrats denounced the arrangement, the GOP panel stonewalled and an outside ethics group requested an investigation. And the man most on the hot seat over the unusual arrangement, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, was in full-on cleanup mode. At a private GOP Conference meeting, Goodlatte tried to calm fellow Republicans who were incensed to learn that some of his aides helped craft Trump's immigration directive without telling him or GOP leaders about it. Republicans, for the most part, seemed eager to move past the drama. Speaker Paul Ryan seemed annoyed by a question about the matter at a news conference, telling a reporter, "As you know, we weren't involved in this."
 
Taking on Amazon Prime, Wal-Mart Opts for Free, Faster Shipping
Wal-Mart is replacing a program that offered free shipping but had an annual fee with one that has a lower free shipping threshold and faster delivery as it hopes to answer Amazon's powerful Prime membership success. The retailer says it will reduce shipping time to two days on 2 million of its most popular items including essentials like diapers and pet food as well hot toys and Electronics. Wal-Mart's average shipping time has been three to five days. Starting Tuesday morning, it's also reducing the spending necessary for free shipping to $35 from $50. The strategy shift is one of the first big moves by Walmart.com's CEO Mark Lore, who joined the company when Wal-Mart bought online retailer Jet.com last year.
 
IHL commissioner talks higher education at Columbus Rotary
Higher education was the topic of discussion Tuesday afternoon at the Columbus Rotary Club. Dr. Glenn Boyce, commissioner for the Mississippi Institute for Higher Learning, spoke to the club members about the importance of education in the strengthening of the economy. He also says recent budget cuts continue to hurt the institutions which eventually costs the students and parents more money. "It may make us more competitive as we pursue economic opportunities and the other thing, it hits the individual students and parents because there's no question one of the avenues we have to use to make up for that funding is tuition," Dr. Boyce said.
 
Changes to Oxford-University Transit bus system shorten routes to campus
The new Oxford-University Transit bus routes put in place the first week of January have changed the bus flow, and other improvements are on the way. Mike Harris, the director of the department of parking and transportation, said the buses are running about five minutes quicker than they were previously. "It's running so much better," Harris said. "The students that are riding it have communicated to the drivers that they like it so much better because they get to the buses quicker. They get to campus quicker." The problem, according to Harris, was that buses were circling around campus where the flow of both car traffic and pedestrians delayed buses throughout the day, pushing arrival times further apart.
 
Joey Shelton joining Millsaps College
Millsaps College announced last week that Reverend Joey Shelton will join the college's staff as chaplain and director of church relations on July 1. Shelton is currently serving as the senior pastor of Galloway United Methodist Church in Jackson, a position he has held since 2008. As chaplain, he will manage the college's religious life, direct Millsaps' relations with various local churches and oversee the workings of the college's Center for Ministry, which coordinates learning opportunities for clergy and church members on campus. "Going into my new position at Millsaps, I want to be able to build on the school's legacy of courageous faith and bringing together people who care about the common good," Shelton told the Jackson Free Press. "My goal is to provide more learning opportunities than ever for students, faculty, staff and clergy, and to promote interfaith dialogue."
 
Silent march at U. of Alabama protests Trump's policy
As Denny Chimes marked midday at the University of Alabama on Tuesday, a few hundred people gathered to silently walk around the Quad in a show of support for students and scholars and in protest of President Donald Trump's recent executive order, which temporarily suspended all immigration by foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. The marchers walked around the Quad for roughly 40 minutes. As the lunchtime march concluded, the crowd presented the university administration with a letter requesting more active opposition to Trump's immigration orders. UA Provost Kevin Whitaker accepted the letter from organizers on behalf of Bell at Rose Administration Building across from the chimes. Whitaker thanked the group for their support of UA's students.
 
Alabama Oyster Social raises $35,000 for Auburn University Shellfish Lab
Five thousand raw oysters sat in half shells along a 32-foot bar Saturday night at the ALFA Pavilion at Auburn University. Twelve farmers from five southern states stood by their harvest, ready to shuck and spread awareness. And after more than 600 attendees of this year's Alabama Oyster Social made their way through the line at the raw bar, not one was left. "This was, by far, the greatest response we could have imagined," said Chef David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn, one of the organizers of the event. Community members, prominent chefs and farmers gathered for the third year on Saturday to celebrate and raise funds for the Alabama oyster community. This year's event raised $35,000 which was donated to the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory in Dauphin Island.
 
U. of South Carolina meets with students from countries listed in Trump's immigration ban
University of South Carolina officials Monday met with about two dozen students from some of the seven Muslim-majority countries listed in President Donald Trump's immigration ban. Three more meetings are planned before Friday as the university works to answer international students' questions about the president's executive order and explain the resources available to them, including counseling, a USC spokesman said. USC has 67 current students from Iraq, 59 from Iran, seven from Libya and two from Syria. Trump's order has not directly affected any of them, the school has said. USC president Harris Pastides tweeted Sunday afternoon, "We value int'l students, faculty & staff and are committed to their safety and success regardless of religion, ethnicity or nat'l origin."
 
U. of Tennessee reports work to reduce decade budget gap
The University of Tennessee is making strides in reducing a budget gap estimated to grow to $377 million over a 10-year period ending in 2025, according to a group tasked with looking at ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The UT board of trustees' Subcommittee on Efficiency and Savings met Monday with the president's Budget Advisory Group to discuss plans to reduce the $377 million budget gap, and reported that increases in state funding, cost savings and other initiatives have already attributed to some reduction. The expected growing budget gap is due to rising demands for state services in combination with lingering effects of the 2008 economic recession, according to an action plan presented by UT President Joe DiPietro. "State appropriations to higher education have been stagnant or declining for several years," the plan said. "This is not the result of lack of support for higher education by the governor or the General Assembly, but more due to a reality that we do not expect to improve."
 
U. of Missouri not yet sure how immigration order affects international students, scholars
University of Missouri officials are trying to figure out how President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States will affect students, faculty and staff. Trump's order bans people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the country for at least the next 90 days, freezes refugee entry into the United States for 120 days and stops the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely. The MU campus has 140 students from those seven countries, most of them from Iraq and Iran. MU spokesman Christian Basi said several students have contacted the International Student Center with concerns and that staff are working to answer their questions. He said many have asked what impact this has on the university and its students.
 
International students hear from U. of Missouri officials about travel ban, their status
For Homayoon Rafatijo, the messages from University of Missouri administrators and faculty offering support to international students simply aren't strong enough. "They're trying to be warm, they're trying to be friendly, but the necessary steps have not been taken yet," he said. An Iranian student who came to MU in 2013 to get his doctorate in chemistry, Rafatijo would like MU to react defiantly to President Donald Trump's recent executive order that bars entry to the United States for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Rafatijo was among the roughly 80 international students who met with MU officials Tuesday afternoon in Memorial Union to discuss the effects of the ban. Members of the MU International Center offered details about services MU can offer.
 
What Trump's Supreme Court Choice Might Mean for Higher Ed
What happens on college campuses often depends on what men and women in black robes decide. So anyone with a stake in higher education had good reason to tune in on Tuesday night and see who President Trump would choose to fill the U.S. Supreme Court's long-empty seat. The answer: Neil M. Gorsuch, a conservative federal appellate judge who, if confirmed by the Senate, just might help shape academe for decades to come. Far from a maverick pick, Judge Gorsuch, 49, has a pedigree similar to that of the sitting justices. As described by one legal expert, he is known as a keen thinker who writes compelling opinions "with a flair that matches -- or at least evokes" -- that of Justice Scalia. What that might mean for higher education down the line is hard to say.
 
Two GOP senators withhold full endorsement of education secretary nominee
he Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advanced the nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday with a party-line vote of 12-11. But her confirmation by the full Senate does not appear to be a sure thing after two Republican committee members expressed doubts about voting for her confirmation on the Senate floor. Maine Senator Susan Collins said DeVos's focus on charter schools as a philanthropist and activist raised questions about whether she understood her primary focus as education secretary would be to strengthen all public schools. And Collins voiced concerns about the nominee's commitment to enforcing the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. In addition, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said, "This nomination is very difficult to me," citing comments from thousands of constituents concerned about DeVos's potential leadership of the department.
 
Jerry Falwell Jr. Says He Will Lead Federal Task Force on Higher-Ed Policy
Jerry L. Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, has been asked by President Trump to head up a new task force that will identify changes that should be made to the U.S. Department of Education's policies and procedures, Mr. Falwell told The Chronicle on Tuesday. The exact scope, size, and mission of the task force has yet to be formally announced. But in an interview, Mr. Falwell said he sees it as a response to what he called "overreaching regulation" and micromanagement by the department in areas like accreditation and policies that affect colleges' student-recruiting behavior, like the new "borrower defense to repayment" regulations. He kept the task-force offer private until Tuesday, when Steve Bannon, President Trump's chief strategist, gave him the green light to discuss it, according to Mr. Falwell.
 
Colleges Discover the Rural Student
To college administrators, rural students, many of them the first in their families to attend college, have become the new underrepresented minority. In their aim to shape leaders and provide access to the disadvantaged, higher education experts have been recognizing that these students bring valuable experiences and viewpoints to campuses that don't typically attract agriculture majors. The simple question -- What is college for? -- gets more complicated depending on where you ask it. Rural America has been slow to see the net value in higher education. For regions in pain, do university degrees help? Higher education is a fraught subject in rural communities.
 
Charter schools not a magical cure for what ills education
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "A charter school can be a model of excellence in all aspects. Many are. Similarly, a traditional public school can be a model of excellence in all aspects. Many are. Mississippi lawmakers are increasing their pace to contract out more of what for generations has been seen as a public obligation. Charter schools are touted as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They're not. The missing ingredient in K-12 education is motivation. That's a much more complex topic. Yet instead of addressing the stresses communities face, what's driving the conversation in Jackson is simply an unspoken desire to get education off lawmakers' plates. We've seen this before and in several contexts."


SPORTS
 
Aggressive and offensive: Andy Cannizaro establishing new mind-set at Mississippi State
Get used to the hearing words like "highly aggressive" and "highly offensive" from Andy Cannizaro. Mississippi State's first-year head baseball coach used the terms often Tuesday in discussing his philosophy and the approach he wants his hitters to take now that the Bulldogs have opened practice and are counting down the days to the season opener against 2016 College World Series participant Texas Tech at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at Dudy Noble Field. Cannizaro hopes those qualities will be on display at 6 p.m. today, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, at 4:30 p.m. Friday, at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, and at 12:15 p.m. Sunday when his team scrimmages. The scrimmages, which will be at Dudy Noble Field, are free and are open to the public.
 
Mississippi State's Andy Cannizaro talks spring practice
Video: First-year Mississippi State baseball coach Andy Cannizaro has held three practices with his new team this spring. Cannizaro shared his thoughts on those initial practices and his early impressions of the Diamond Dogs.
 
Mississippi State's Jake Mangum earns third All-American honor
Mississippi State's Jake Mangum earned his third Preseason All-American honor on Tuesday as the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association selected the sophomore outfielder to its first team. Mangum had previously been picked as a second team All-American by Baseball America and Perfect Game. "Jake Mangum is a stud," said MSU coach Andy Cannizaro. "He is a bonafide superstar in college baseball right now."
 
Vic Schaefer wants to find a way to duplicate Bulldogs' offensive execution
Imitation is the highest form of flattery. When your job security depends largely on the number of games your team wins, no coach is above stealing a play from an opponent if it is successful. The ability to duplicate that success isn't always guaranteed. But Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer doesn't want to imitate another team. In fact, he likes his players and his team very much. He does, though, want to find a way to help the Bulldogs duplicate their offensive efficiency with greater regularity. In particular, Schaefer would like to see No. 5 MSU duplicate the effort it delivered in the second quarter Sunday in a 71-61 victory against Texas A&M at Humphrey Coliseum. Schaefer will have today and part of tomorrow to replicate that success before MSU gets back to action to take on Auburn at 8 p.m. Thursday (SEC Network) in Auburn, Alabama.
 
Mississippi State softball will count on depth, experience on pitching staff
Mississippi State junior Cassady Knudsen always has believed she could pitch in the Southeastern Conference. Hearing the high expectations of her coach Vann Stuedeman only helps reinforce that belief. "Playing for Vann has been the best experience of my life," Knudsen said. "She knows pitching. When she tells you you have what it takes to pitch on this level, you take it to heart. It gives you a lot of confidence before you step in the circle." The Bulldogs will look for confidence in the pitching circle as they try to return to the postseason this season after seeing a string of four-straight regional appearances snapped in 2016. MSU open this season with against Georgia State at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10. It will be the first of five games the team will play in the Bulldog Kickoff Classic at Nusz Park.
 
College coaches will eat bad food -- and lots of it -- if it helps recruiting
The Southeastern Conference head coach was feeling sick but recruiting never stops, and that meant an in-home visit with a top target. As the head coach met with the family of the desired player, he saw dinner had already been prepared. Chicken curry. He knew he had to eat it to avoid possibly offending the family, but it was the last thing he wanted at that moment. "I needed that like I needed a hole in my head," he said laughing about the whole experience. During the hectic recruiting months of December and January, college coaches are on the road a lot trying to convince high school players to come to their school. As the saying goes, recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, and that makes signing the top players essential to long-term success. It means going into homes and sharing a meal with the player and his family, anything to better the chances of signing a highly-regarded 17-year old kid. As college coaches told AL.com, that usually means eating a lot in January.
 
Before Matt Ryan's Ascent, a Quiet Grounding in the Quaker Way
In a spacious meeting room with broad, cathedral-like windows and a vaulted ceiling, 450 high school students and their teachers sat side by side on long wooden benches in sustained and still quiet for 40 minutes. The silence was interrupted only by the occasional cough or gently cleared throat. The group -- the student body, faculty and staff of William Penn Charter School -- gathers once a week for this noiseless period of reflection called "meeting for worship," a Quaker practice that William Penn would recognize from 1689, when he founded the school here. Such a mellow setting might not figure to be a breeding ground for nationally prominent athletes, but Penn Charter, as it is known, has recently produced a handful of professional players and scores of top collegiate athletes, including Matt Ryan, the quarterback who will lead the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
 
Jones vs. Butler: The matchup to end all Super Bowl matchups
Sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes for Mississippi Today: "One of the key matchups of Sunday's Super Bowl involves one of the few Mississippians in the game. He would be Malcolm Butler, the New England Patriots cornerback from Vicksburg and Hinds Community College by way of the University of West Alabama. Butler's task Sunday will be to cover Atlanta Falcons Superman-ish wide receiver Julio Jones, often in straight man-to-man coverage. Any number of NFL experts would tell you that is virtually an impossible task. Regardless, this is a classic matchup, in many ways David vs. Goliath, with no slingshot involved."



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