Wednesday, February 8, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Supervisors hire Butler Snow as counsel on OCH issue
Oktibbeha County supervisors voted 3-2 Monday to hire the Jackson-based law firm Butler Snow for legal counsel as the county deals with the future of OCH Regional Medical Center. The firm's hire is an indication a majority of supervisors are willing to continue forward with a process that could lead to a potential sale or lease of the hospital. District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer, District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams supported the hire, while District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery and District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard opposed. One issue the firm is expected to address: an expected countywide vote on a transaction.
 
OCH economic impact grows by nearly $10M
A Mississippi Hospital Association report shows OCH Regional Medical Center's economic impact grew by nearly $10 million and payroll impact by $4 million from 2015 to 2016. The study, conducted by the non-profit Kaiser Medicaid State Facts, highlights that OCH had a statewide economic impact of $127.7 million, up from $118 million in 2015. Payroll rose from $66 million to $70 million. The hospital employs a total of 582 individuals, with 530 outside jobs created. "Quality of life and economic development are primary focuses of the Partnership, and OCH has a major impact on both of these factors," Greater Starkville Development Partnership Board Chairman Michelle Amos said in a release.
 
Kayla Gilmore's, Roy Perkins' 2016 campaign filings emerge
Two filings provided Monday show Ward 5 alderman candidate Kayla Gilmore and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins met a Jan. 31 deadline to report campaign contributions and expenditures made last year in preparation for the 2017 municipal cycle. On Thursday, City Hall provided The Dispatch with what was believed to be a comprehensive list of candidates who filed the report, and that list showed mayoral candidate Lynn Spruill and Ward 2 candidate Sandra Sistrunk as the only two filers. Both Gilmore and Perkins filed their respective forms on Jan. 31, but those documents were not included in the city's response to the newspaper because a city employee who accepted Gilmore's and Perkins' files took sick leave following their submissions.
 
Supervisor Marvell Howard: Road bond split a 'cutthroat, thuggish' action
Dissatisfaction over how Oktibbeha County supervisors decided to divvy the proceeds of an upcoming $14.5 million road bond remains two weeks after their decision as District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard called the split a "cut-throat ... and thuggish" act by fellow board members. Howard continued a verbal assault Monday first launched last month by District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery. He singled out District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer and said the longest-tenured supervisor "stooped to a new low" by joining District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams in supporting a formula that guaranteed their districts would receive more funding than Districts 1 and 3.
 
Mississippi lawmakers pledge school funding details soon
Top Mississippi lawmakers say a new K-12 school funding formula will be unveiled this week and it won't raise the share that local districts must pay. House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Read, a Gautier Republican, says he expects a plan "in the next couple of days." Placeholder bills could be amended with details as lawmakers consider them before a Thursday deadline. Read and Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, an Oxford Republican, both say any bill won't raise a district's share above the current 27 percent cap.
 
Legislators lack info about school funding revamp
Thursday's deadline for floor action on bills is looming with legislators facing a big decision on a school funding rewrite and little information at this point. Mississippi Today surveyed House members representing school districts that could lose money under the EdBuild proposal to gain insight on how they view the prospect of possibly being asked to vote on a dummy (or placeholder) bill. That move would keep the bill alive and give legislators the ability to change the language and provide details later. Committees in the House and Senate passed dummy bills last week for that purpose. Legislative leaders have released little information about how they might adjust provisions of the recommendations made by EdBuild, the New Jersey consulting firm.
 
Senate passes bill keeping BP millions on Coast
Millions in BP payments for damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill would be placed in a special fund and spent on projects in the Coast counties under a bill passed without debate by the Senate on Tuesday. The Senate unanimously passed the bill that would place the BP oil spill settlement moneys in a separate account that could only be drawn from "for projects benefiting the Gulf Coast." The bill, if passed in current form by the House, would answer a years-long question about how state officials will spend the funds awarded to the state after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
 
Mississippi Department of Corrections: Proposal would leave shortfall
he Mississippi Department of Corrections is expected to have a budget shortfall of more than $11 million for the upcoming budget year if lawmakers stick to an early budget proposal. Former MDOC Commissioner Marshall Fisher recently said his department has an almost $12 million deficit for the current year. The department had 18,780 inmates in custody as of Feb. 1. Fisher was appointed late last month by Gov. Phil Bryant as commissioner of the Department of Public Safety to replace Albert Santa Cruz, who retired. Fisher's chief of staff at MDOC, Pelicia Hall, was named interim Department of Corrections commissioner. For the upcoming budget year, which begins July 1, MDOC has requested $356.4 million, but the legislative budget recommendation is $334.8 million. The full Legislature will approve the final budget.
 
Bill creating Mississippi faith-based council advances
A plan for Mississippi's governor to set up an advisory council on faith-based initiatives is moving ahead in the Legislature. Senators voted 37-7 Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 2514. It creates the framework for the council, which Gov. Phil Bryant requested in his State of the State speech. The measure moves to the House, which is considering its own proposal. Sen. Jenifer Branning, a Philadelphia Republican, says supporters of the measure believe some social problems can be better addressed by using non-government resources. She says the council will "open the lines of communication" between religious groups and the governor's office.
 
Should some felons regain voting rights?
A committee would be formed under a House bill to study the possibility of allowing non-violent felons to have their voting rights restored upon the completion of their sentences. The House voted 120-0 on Tuesday to establish and perhaps recommend changes to Mississippi law, which results in the state having the second highest percentage of felons not allowed to vote. The committee also would be charged with examining "the societal impact" of the felons being disenfranchised. According to a 2012 study by the Sentencing Project, a national nonprofit organization that works on criminal justice issues, Mississippi has an estimated 182,814 convicted felons ineligible to vote. Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Water Valley, said the study committee is needed because "it is not workable to go to the Legislature for each person wanting to get voting rights restored."
 
Rep. Gregg Harper pushes to shut down federal election agency
While President Trump is promising to launch an investigation into his belief that millions of illegal ballots were cast in 2016, the Republican-led House Administration Committee voted Tuesday to shut down the federal agency set up to help states improve their election systems. Rep. Gregg Harper, the Mississippi Republican who chairs the House Administration Committee, said the Election Assistance Commission has "outlived" its usefulness. "It is time for the EAC to be officially ended," said Harper. "We don't need fluff." The committee voted 6-3 to approve Harper's measure. It is not clear when or if the House will consider the measure. Harper has introduced a bill four times to eliminate the agency. The House has passed the legislation once, but the measure may stand a better chance this session in the Republican-controlled Congress.
 
Sen. Roger Wicker's office says constituents overwhelmingly supported Betsy DeVos
Sen. Roger Wicker's office said the Mississippi Republican's constituents overwhelmingly supported Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed Tuesday as secretary of education. "The majority of people from Mississippi who contact Sen. Wicker about President Trump's cabinet picks want those nominees to be confirmed," Wicker spokesman Ryan Taylor wrote in an email response to a question about people who contacted the office prior to Tuesday's 51-50 vote. "That stands consistent with the president's overwhelming margin of victory in the state last November." He said the office did not receive more calls than usual. Sen. Thad Cochran's office said Mississippi's senior senator received a significant number of calls and emails. "Over the past two weeks, Senator Cochran's office received thousands of calls and emails in support and in opposition of the DeVos nomination, both from Mississippians and from other interested Americans," Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos said.
 
Judges sharply question attorneys for both sides on Trump's travel ban
A federal appeals court panel reviewing President Trump's controversial limits on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries appeared skeptical Tuesday of the administration's arguments seeking to reinstate his order. In a hearing that lasted more than an hour, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appeared to dismiss the administration's arguments that neither the states nor the courts have the authority to challenge the executive order, which seeks to bar travelers from seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa to protect the United States from terrorists. The fight over the travel moratorium is being viewed as a test of whether the new and unconventional president, who has never before held public office, will be reined in by the courts as he tries to implement his controversial campaign promises.
 
Homeland Security Chief Admits Travel Ban Was Rushed
The secretary of homeland security, John F. Kelly, acknowledged to lawmakers on Tuesday that President Trump's travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries had been rushed and would have benefited from better coordination. But Mr. Kelly defended the ban, saying he expected the administration to win a court challenge. Representative Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he agreed that there had been problems with the rollout of the ban. But he rejected Mr. Kelly's testimony that the order had not caused chaos at airports as customs officers tried to determine who would be denied entry. "They were put in an untenable position. Basically, they were flying by the seat of their pants trying to interpret an E.O. that had no directives to go with it," Mr. Thompson said, referring to the executive order.
 
Hill Republicans quake at Trump's budget-busting wish list
President Donald Trump wants to rebuild the nation's roads and bridges, boost military spending, slash taxes and build a "great wall." But Republicans on Capitol Hill have one question for him: How the heck will we pay for all of this? GOP lawmakers are fretting that Trump's spending requests, due out in a month or so, will blow a gaping hole in the federal budget -- ballooning the debt and undermining the party's doctrine of fiscal discipline. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a lobbyist who worked closely with Trump's transition team, said many of his corporate clients are lining up to oppose one of the biggest "pay-fors" put forward by Speaker Paul Ryan: a new tax on imports, which the speaker estimates would generate $1 trillion. "The border adjustment tax is giving my clients serious heartburn. A lot of American companies, the poultry industry, the automobile industry, many others are worried about that," Lott said.
 
Bernie Sanders coming to Mississippi for march against Nissan
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and actor Danny Glover are coming to Mississippi to help bring attention to what organizers call poor working conditions at Canton's Nissan manufacturing plant, according to the Mississippi NAACP. The "March on Mississippi" is scheduled for March 4 at the Canton Sportsplex, as advertised by the Mississippi Alliance For Fairness at Nissan. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson and Sierra Club President Aaron Mair will also attend. The march focuses on attempts by Nissan workers to unionize and the intimidation they say they've faced in response. An emailed response from the company Tuesday said, "Nissan's history reflects that we truly value our employees and respect their right to decide who should represent them. Nissan Canton employees enjoy good, stable, safe jobs with some of the highest wages and strongest benefits in Mississippi. The allegations being made by the union against Nissan are completely unfounded."
 
NASA facility in New Orleans with deep-space rocket takes direct hit from a tornado
A tornado on Tuesday damaged the NASA facility in New Orleans where workers are building key components of the agency's new deep-space rocket. The twister touched down before noon and ripped holes in the roof and walls of the sprawling Michoud Assembly Facility. NASA employees and contractors there are building the huge hydrogen and oxygen fuel tanks for the heavy-lift rocket known as the Space Launch System. A NASA statement said all personnel were accounted for. Stephen C. Doering, manager of the SLS Stages Element Office for NASA, told The Washington Post that he was watching the twister from the parking lot when it moved toward the assembly facility. He and his colleagues ran inside to shelter in the restrooms, he said.
 
U. of Mississippi scientists, professors rally behind climate truth
In the wake of President Donald Trump's administration's recently proposed environmental policy changes, University of Mississippi biology faculty members are speaking out against the White House's stance on climate change and its causes. Tiffany Bensen, professor of environmental biology, said climate change is not a debatable issue -- it's scientific fact. For scientists like Bensen, the call to action has never been louder. Bensen said she has written to her congressman and visited the state Senate offices to voice her grave concerns. "I've been more politically active in the last three to six weeks than I have ever been in my entire life. We are facing an administration that is very threatening on all sorts of fronts," Bensen said. "Scientists are rising to the occasion."
 
House loosens regulations on UMMC partnerships
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is closer to stepping outside of Jackson. On Tuesday the House passed, on a 91-21 vote, legislation that would loosen antitrust regulations on the center. The bill, which received both heated debate and bipartisan support, makes it easier for UMMC to partner with private hospitals and healthcare providers across the state. Supporters called the bill a "lifeline" for rural hospitals around the state because UMMC could potentially strike up partnerships with struggling institutions. Critics of House Bill 926, known as the Healthcare Collaboration Act, questioned whether loosening restrictions would give UMMC an unfair advantage over private institutions.
 
William Carey: On track for speedy recovery
Diana Roy says William Carey medical students are used to having their own space, but are happy to be temporarily in Harkins Hall at the University of Southern Mississippi. "The space that they gave us -- we're really grateful for it," she said. "We're making do with what we've been given. As young people, we're adapting and making the place our own." More than 200 College of Osteopathic Medicine students and about 60 faculty and staff have set up shop in Harkins -- the old nursing building -- following the Jan. 21 tornado that destroyed or heavily damaged much of the Carey campus, including the College of Medicine. Fortunately for the William Carey folks, Southern Miss nursing students had recently gotten ensconced in their new digs at Asbury Hall. "Nursing had just moved out of this building in December and about a month later, here we were needing the building," said James Turner, dean of the college. "I met with (USM's President) Dr. Bennett 12 hours after the tornado and he said, 'We will make this happen.'"
 
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College culinary program named best in state
Culinary students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College may feel a bigger sense of pride in their courses. That's because these students are enrolled in the best program in the state, according to a new list by Best Choice Schools. That designation gives lead instructor Chef Todd Reilly a swelling sense of pride after working for the past several years to earn a national accreditation with the American Culinary Federation. "It's support we've gotten in the past. It's just nice to now get the recognition for it and to have other people see that as well," said Reilly. According to Reilly, support from school administration moved the program into a brand new, state of the art facility right after he began teaching at the community college. He said enrollment has shot up significantly since then.
 
Bumble bees are changing, and this U. of Alabama professor asks why
When reporting on Dr. Jeffrey Lozier, the University of Alabama's bumble bee expert, it's best to get the No. 1 myth out of the way up front. No, it's not a miracle that bumble bees can fly, Lozier said last week. Yes, some people think it is because they look like black and yellow tanks with tiny wings. "They're not fixed-wing aircraft," Lozier observed. "They're quite good at it," he said of bumble bee flight. They can even do acrobatics. Yes, they "do have challenges" flying, but they have "lots of ways to deal with them." Lozier knows bumble bees now, but he didn't start out researching them. He was an aphid man at first, but he had an opportunity to study the related bees and he took it. That's the way modern science can work in real life. It's worked well.
 
ArFuture Grants To Help Fill High-Demand Jobs
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said his Arkansas Future Grant program is as much about giving students confidence to go to college as it is about giving them monetary support to do so. In December, Hutchinson announced that the grant program would be part of his plan to revamp higher education funding and achievement in Arkansas. ArFuture, as the governor called it, would pay for tuition and fees for any student in a high-demand field of study at a state community or technical college. Hutchinson said the $8.2 million price tag would be covered by the cancellation of two previously funded grant programs that proved ineffective. "Part of the challenge for young people is if they have not had a family member who has gone to college before, they don't think they can do it; they don't think they can afford it; they don't have any confidence in it," Hutchinson said.
 
UGA College of Pharmacy opens doors to new educational facility in Augusta
For the first time in its more than 40-year history, the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy's program in Augusta has its own facility. Located on the Augusta University Health Sciences campus, the new facility offers a 50-seat classroom, eight small group learning spaces that feature video connectivity to other UGA College of Pharmacy campuses across the state, a collaboration lounge, faculty and administrative offices and a full-service kitchen and break area. A second phase of the Augusta expansion is planned for the near future and will support the college's Program in Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics, which aims to identify new treatments for diseases, such as cancer, stroke, dementia and heart disease.
 
U. of South Carolina trustee Eddie Floyd gets rid of Adolph Hilter painting and says he's sorry
A longtime University of South Carolina board of trustees member says he has gotten rid of a painting on display at his house by Adolf Hitler, the World War II Nazi leader who sent six million Jews and millions of others to be killed in death camps. Eddie Floyd, a retired heart surgeon, top state Republican fund raiser and philanthropist, said he got rid of the Hitler painting after a State newspaper reporter told him he was doing a story about the state's Jewish community being troubled by it. The reporter's request made him realize that what was a collector's item to him could cause great distress to others, he said. "I'm truly sorry if I upset anybody," said Floyd, 82, who has been a USC board member 35 years. "It really upset me; I've lost sleep over it." For months, rumors that Floyd had a Hitler painting had sparked behind the scenes concern in the state's Jewish and African-American communities.
 
Missouri higher education collaboration bill could help cut costs
Students living in areas with limited access to higher education institutions could have the opportunity to pursue a degree their current college doesn't offer. Legislation proposed in a senate education committee hearing by state Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, Tuesday afternoon would start collaboration programs between universities and colleges to expand degree availability. If the institution the student is attending doesn't offer a program, the student can partner with an institution that does. The collaboration would allow institutions to cut costs by not offering a degree that a nearby college offers. "Right now, we see the shortfall of funds," Romine said. "We don't need schools to try and develop additional programs with additional expenses."
 
Betsy DeVos Survived a Historic Confirmation Fight; What's Next for Higher Ed?
Just hours after Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education, Republicans in the other chamber of Congress took the first step toward dismantling her predecessors' higher-education legacy. In the House of Representatives, Republicans voted to scrap a rule, finalized in October, which aimed to raise the bar on teacher-preparation programs, holding them more directly accountable for student outcomes. The House and Senate actions -- coupled with last week's announcement that Jerry L. Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, would head up an Education Department task force on reducing federal "overreach" -- were a signal that Republicans, both in Congress and the new administration, plan to make good on President Trump's campaign promise to deregulate higher education.
 
DeVos confirmation squeaks through Senate
Betsy DeVos saw her nomination for education secretary clear its Senate hurdle Tuesday when Vice President Pence broke a 50-50 tie. Every Democrat and Independent and two Republicans opposed her nomination. While most of the public debate about her nomination swirled around issues affecting K-12 public schools, it largely neglected the realm of higher education. Observers of higher education policy said DeVos could have a significant effect in the short term by changing tack on Obama administration strategies that saw the department take on a bigger oversight role involving for-profit colleges and student loan servicers.
 
Study suggests university incubators can hurt innovation, patent revenue
Business incubators are booming among universities lately, with many top research institutions establishing incubators and bragging about their ability to help move innovation out of the ivory tower and into the marketplace. But new research published in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal shows that university-affiliated incubators aren't all they're cracked up to be when it comes to at least one key metric of innovation -- patents. Incubators' establishment is actually associated with a decrease in average patent quality and licensing revenue across the country's top research institutions. That doesn't mean incubators over all saddle universities with a negative net impact, say the research's authors, Baylor University Entrepreneurship Professor Peter G. Klein and University of Bath Innovation and Entrepreneurship Associate Professor Christos Kolympiris. Instead, they say, their findings show that universities may be changing their mind-sets and incurring hidden costs when they start business incubators.
 
Is this the year for a state lottery?
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "So, gentle reader, would Mississippi voters approve a state lottery were they to be given a chance to vote on the issue? In a phrase, bet on it. Yes. As far back 1992, polling in Mississippi has demonstrated the public's measurable appetite for a state lottery. That year, Mississippi State University Professor Steve Shaffer's research identified 62 percent support for a state lottery -- with other prior polls showing support for a state lottery as high as 72 percent if the proceeds were tied to public education. ...Mississippi's anemic revenue stream is the reason lawmakers are seriously talking about a lottery in 2017."


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State women growing into role as hunted
The Mississippi State women's basketball has been almost beyond reproach this season. In the process, the Bulldogs have matured from a hunter into the hunted. At No. 4 in the nation and preparing for a stretch run of six more regular-season games, MSU is at a point only a few imagined would be attainable when Vic Schaefer arrived prior to the 2012-13 season. The Bulldogs are 23-1 and in second place in the Southeastern Conference with a 9-1 record. They have won 20-plus games four years in a row. They are on pace to improve their win total for the fourth-straight season and to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament for a third-straight season.
 
Bulldogs claim school-record No. 3 ranking in USA Today Top 25 poll
Mississippi State women's basketball added another first to the extensive list it has compiled under Vic Schaefer. The latest came Tuesday as the Bulldogs rose to a school-record No. 3 in the latest USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll. State earned the record ranking a day after moving up to No. 4 in Monday's Associated Press Top 25. The Bulldogs have been in both polls 50-straight weeks. Mississippi State returns to action at Humphrey Coliseum Thursday, hosting Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network.
 
Mississippi State's Morgan William on Staley Award midseason watch list
Mississippi State junior Morgan William has been added to the midseason watch list for the Dawn Staley Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top guard. William is one of 19 players picked to the midseason watch list. The winner of the Dawn Staley Award will be announced during Final Four weekend. The 5-foot-5 native of Birmingham, Alabama has started all 24 games for the fourth-ranked Bulldogs.
 
Mississippi State falls to Auburn after slow start
There wasn't an impressive comeback win this time for Mississippi State. Instead, there was just a bid for one that ultimately came up short. And the young Bulldogs learned the hard way that while falling behind early on and then playing inspired basketball in the second half makes for good entertainment, it's not always conducive to winning games. Three nights after mounting a come-from-behind win against Tennessee despite being down 19 points, Mississippi State trailed Auburn by as many as 21 points early in the second half and lost 98-92 Tuesday night at Auburn Arena. "We gave up too many easy baskets," Ben Howland said.
 
Auburn lets another double-digit 2nd-half lead shrink, hangs on to defeat Mississippi State
Auburn never makes it easy. For the second time in four days, it let a double-digit second-half lead shrink to single digits in the closing minutes. Alabama got within three points with 27 seconds remaining Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State shaved a deficit that had grown as large as 21 points down to five with 51 seconds left inside Auburn Arena on Tuesday. Again, the Tigers hung on for a much-needed SEC victory. "You could see how dangerous a club they are. They came back from 19 down against Tennessee, and it's just no fluke," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said, referring to Mississippi State's win over the Volunteers on Saturday. "We just couldn't stop them."
 
Mississippi State softball team wants to get back to NCAA tournament
Senior third baseman Caroline Seitz knows the relevance of the 2016 softball season for Mississippi State. "You have to learn from last season," Seitz said. "You can't dwell on it. You can't have adversity and not make sure it makes you better. We have to take the positives from last season, and we have to fix the things that went wrong. Everybody is ready to get started on that." MSU finished 26-31 and won only three Southeastern Conference games last season. As a result, the Bulldogs missed a NCAA regional for the first time since 2011. Seitz, senior pitcher Alexis Silkwood, and sixth-year head coach Vann Stuedeman vowed this season would be different Monday at the school's annual Media Day. The season begins at 3 p.m. Friday against Georgia State in the first of five games scheduled for the Bulldog Kickoff Classic at Nusz Park.
 
Millsaps College: 'We have not heard from Saints'
The New Orleans Saints are considering a return to Millsaps College for its summer training camp -- at least, that was the news reported by The Sporting News over the weekend. If so, it is also news to Millsaps College, which hosted the team's summer camp from 2006-08. "We've had absolutely no communication with the Saints to my knowledge," said John Sewell, Millsaps director of communications and marketing. "We'd be interested but we have heard nothing on our end," Sewell added. The Saints shocked everyone in pro football by making it to the NFC Championship Game in 2006 after first training at Millsaps. They remained at Millsaps in 2007 and 2008, working in extreme heat and humidity and dodging afternoon thunderstorms.
 
How did U. of Florida's AD Scott Stricklin spend his first 100 days? Listening
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment for Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin in his first 100 days on the job came last week when he moved out of the Residence Inn. "I'm renting a house, and I'm going to build one so I feel like I've graduated," Stricklin said. "I've moved on to the next level of commitment." While his family is staying in Starkville, Miss., until school ends, Stricklin, 46, has become immersed in the Gator Nation in his first 100 days. Much of that time has been simply watching, listening and discovering what UF is all about. "I traded in a ton of institutional knowledge," he said. "The work is the same, the basic job duties are the same, but it's hard to do this job really well if you don't have a lot of institutional knowledge."
 
Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian leaving for Atlanta Falcons
Alabama will have to find a new offensive coordinator. New Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is leaving to take the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator job, the Falcons announced Tuesday morning. Sarkisian is leaving less than two months after he was named Alabama's replacement for Lane Kiffin. He will leave having only spent one game as the Tide's offensive coordinator, Alabama's loss to Clemson in the national championship game. For the Falcons, Sarkisian will replace Kyle Shanahan, who was recently tabbed as the San Francisco 49ers' new head coach. The 42-year old Sarkisian joined Alabama as an offensive analyst in September, impressing Saban enough in that role that he was hired as offensive coordinator just three months after joining the staff.
 
Chris Spognardi, who had been on paid leave, fired by U. of Tennessee
Tennessee fired director of football operations Chris Spognardi, who had been on paid administrative leave, for what it called "gross misconduct." UT placed Spognardi on paid administrative leave on Aug. 9. A source told the News Sentinel in August that Spognardi was relieved of his duties after a financial audit found irregularities related to his job. In a letter obtained Tuesday by the News Sentinel that was dated Dec. 12, 2016, athletic director Dave Hart informed Spognardi that he was "being terminated" and the "decision is based on information learned by the University's Office of Audit and Compliance." The letter, signed by Hart, does not include any other details about the audit. UT declined to release correspondence related to Spognardi's case in August citing an "ongoing audit."
 
Will Muschamp calls U. of South Carolina's new football ops building 'a workman place'
The plans for Will Muschamp's future office are taking up a lot of room in Will Muschamp's current office. South Carolina's head football coach showed the blueprints to a visitor recently, flipping through the two-foot long architectural drawings to point out this feature or that feature. It's the low-tech version of the presentation each of the Gamecocks recruits got during their visits to campus and will continue to receive until those plans are turned into a $50 million, 110,000-square foot operations building that will be built adjacent to the team's still new indoor practice facility. "This facility is going to be a game changer for us," Muschamp said. Work on the building is expected to begin March 8, and South Carolina will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking for the project on April 1 before the spring football game.



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