Friday, February 17, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State research shows new population estimates at dog shelters
A recently completed study by two researchers in Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine brings American animal shelter canine populations into sharper focus. The study by CVM faculty members Kimberly Woodruff and David R. Smith uses survey and capture/re-capture methodology to estimate the number of dogs in U.S. animal shelters, adoption rates, transfer rates and euthanasia rates. The researchers found that commonly cited figures underestimate the quantity taken in by shelters every year and overestimate the number of dogs those shelters euthanize. Woodruff, who leads the College of Veterinary Medicine's shelter medicine program, said the study's goal was to put quality science behind shelter population estimates. Woodruff and Smith, with the help of the Social Science Research Center's Wolfgang Frese Survey Research Laboratory, surveyed 413 animal shelters across the country.
State GOP Joe Nosef chair visits Starkville to talk municipal elections
Donald Trump may have won the White House for the Republican Party, but that victory isn't stopping state party leaders from taking a proactive approach as municipal election season approaches. Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef visited Starkville on Thursday and spoke with the SDN about the party's efforts to retain and expand its foothold across the state. Nosef led a party event Thursday night at the Golden Triangle Planning and Development Center. "It's a meeting to... remind people about municipal elections, thank them for their help, telling them and assuring them that we are coming back and when the time comes, we want to help not just recruit but help people get elected," he said.
Republican Chase Neal enters Ward 5's alderman race
June's General Election will now decide who will represent Ward 5 in Starkville. Republican Chase Neal, the race's third overall candidate, qualified as a Republican last week after two Democrats -- Kayla Gilmore and Patrick Miller -- threw their hats in the ring last month. The winner of May's Democratic Primary between Gilmore and Miller now will face Neal in June. Neal, 33, is an independent social media brand manager originally from Meridian. Gilmore, 33, is a former city election commissioner who vacated her position to run for office. She is the owner of KMG Creations Dance, Fitness and Productions. Miller, 26, is an employee of the Mississippi State University Extension Center for Government and Community Development.
Starkville Median Project For Highway 12
Starkville drivers are about to see big changes on Highway 12. Construction could start in a matter weeks on the project that will bring medians to the busy highway. Transportation officials say Starkville's Highway 12 has too many crashes. A two to three year project will be broken up into phases and medians will be placed along the road. State and federal dollars are paying for the paving. Back Stage Music owner Allen McBroom says this project could put the breaks on his steady business. Mayor Parker Wiseman supports the traffic changes. Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert did not have specific date on when construction will begin but it should be in the next few weeks.
West Point plant to make 40 armored trucks for Pakistan
Navistar International Corp. has been awarded a $35 million contract to deliver 40 armored vehicles to Pakistan from its Mississippi plant. The U.S. Army announced the contract Thursday, saying Navistar, based in Lisle, Illinois, had made the only bid for the mine resistant ambush protected MaxxPro Dash DXM trucks. Work is supposed to be done at Navistar's plant in West Point, as well as in Pakistan, and is estimated to be finished by Oct. 31, 2018.
Shortage of construction workers in state expected to grow to 80,000 in 2 years
The issue of work-force availability in the construction trades continues to be an issue in Mississippi due to many workers retiring combined with fewer young people choosing a career in construction. "Finding adequate labor is definitely an issue, especially with bigger contracts," said Bob Wilson, executive director, Associated General Contractors of Mississippi. "It is not as acute as it is in other areas of the country. But it is still an issue we contend with." One issue that could impact labor availability is the Trump administration's crackdown on non-documented residents. Concerns have been raised about the ability to build a wall along the Mexican border because about half of the construction workers in Texas are non-documented, according to Workers Defense Project in Texas, which says that 14 percent of construction workers in the U.S. are non-documented.
Continental hires Mississippi companies for 30 percent of work
A Jackson engineering firm will receive a portion of the engineering design and program management contract for the new Continental Tire plant in Hinds County. SOL Engineering Services, LLC, owned by principals Willie O'Neal Jr. and Derek Starling Sr., is certified with the city of Jackson as a Minority Business Enterprise. Construction on the 900-acre site west of Clinton is expected to begin in 2018. Thirty percent of a design contract to build the training center will also go to companies from Jackson, Clinton and Tupelo. McCarty Architects of Jackson in conjunction with WGK Engineers of Clinton and Corbett Legge & Associates Engineering of Tupelo received the work. The construction is set to begin in July 2017.
Toyota donates $750K to Mississippi museums
Toyota officials announced a donation $750,000 Thursday to the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, both under construction in downtown Jackson. The two museums are slated to open Dec. 9 as part of Mississippi's bicentennial -- a date that also happens to be Gov. Phil Bryant's birthday. Sean Suggs, vice president of manufacturing for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, noted that the donation was coinciding with the 10-year anniversary of the Blue Springs plant, which has so far produced more than 1 million Corollas. Much of Toyota's donation will go to a permanent exhibit gallery inside the civil rights museum. The money will also go toward educational resources for the museums, including traveling exhibits that will go to the north Mississippi area for the next three years.
Expert: Mississippi economy remains behind national average
Mississippi's economy is growing at a modest pace but continues to lag behind the national average, an expert told lawmakers Thursday. State economist Darrin Webb said Mississippi presented a report packed with statistics. It showed Mississippi was one of eight states that with a lower employment rate in December 2016 than in December 2007, the starting point of the Great Recession. "Since 2000, we've struggled to gain momentum," Webb said of Mississippi's non-farm employment. The state had the second-lowest workforce participation rate in the nation in 2016. Mississippi's population is also growing more slowly than that of the nation or the Southeast.
High number of disabled decreases state's work force
Mississippi has a low work force participation rate, at least in part because it has more disabled people, state Economist Darrin Webb told legislators Thursday morning. The state's work force participation rate is 56 percent. West Virginia is the only state with a lower work force participation rate. "A lot of that statistic has to do with the disabled," Webb said during the economic briefing that legislators normally receive at some point during the session. Webb said about 10 percent of Mississippi's working-age population is disabled, compared to the national average of 6 percent. "That is about 70,000 people," he said during the hearing in the state Capitol. The overall outlook, Webb told legislators, has not changed much in recent years: the Mississippi economy is growing at a slower rate than that of the nation and of the Southeast.
13 things you need to know about the state economy
Mississippi lawmakers, as they get down to brass tacks on a roughly $6 billion state budget, on Thursday received their "Legislative Economic Briefing" from State Economist Darrin Webb and Deputy Treasurer Jesse Graham. The news, mostly, wasn't good. Webb, trying to look on the bright side at the end of his presentation, noted, "Despite all this negative news, we are not in recession." Graham, filling in for Treasurer Lynn Fitch who was in Washington, D.C., drew fire from Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and some lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. They grilled him on several points and said they didn't trust some of the numbers or math provided on state debt or thought they were presented in a way skewed to make debt look worse than it is.
State Revenues 'Have Disappointed,' Trump Effect on Mississippi Uncertain
The U.S. economy may be growing, but Mississippi's revenue is lagging, and the state faces uncertainty over the effect of the Trump administration's policies, especially on trade. "It's been very discouraging," Webb reported to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee Thursday morning about the state's current economic patterns. "(It's likely) reflective of slow income growth and a slowing oil industry, and we haven't been helped much by inflation---we do expect some improvement or help once we start getting help from Amazon around March." Webb said Mississippi's economy is growing at a rather modest pace, but that sales-tax collections appear to be weak so far in 2017. Webb said the state's economy should see growth in the second half of 2017, but not at a pace that he or budget writers had estimated.
Senate, House pass deficit bills
The Senate and House both passed measures to fill in budget holes at several state agencies this week. The Senate passed multiple appropriations bills Thursday morning ahead of the Feb. 22 deadline, including one deficit bill that delivers additional funds to a handful of state agencies and departments for the current fiscal year. Senate Bill 3015 would provide deficit appropriations for the Division of Medicaid, Department of Revenue and Department of Finance and Administration. The bill also contains placeholder text in the event an appropriations bill for the BP settlement funds is introduced. Wednesday, in addition to the deficit funds for Medicaid, the House approved appropriations totaling $4.8 million for the Department of Finance and Administration, $3.9 million the attorney general's office and $4 million for Alcorn State University. The money for Alcorn State is to build a reverse osmosis membrane-type water treatment plant to replace an outdated system that is corroding.
Sustainable farmers urge lawmakers to rethink 'burdensome' rules
Beth Simmons, who co-owns Nature's Gourmet Farm in Petal with her husband, said she believes agriculture regulations in Mississippi tend to favor industrial farms over smaller, sustainable farms like hers. Simmons' farm specializes in grass-fed beef and pastured chicken and pork. She said small farmers in the state need a lot of help since some regulations can be burdensome for smaller farms like theirs. So, for the second year in a row, sustainable farmers from across the state drove to the Mississippi Capitol Thursday to meet legislators face-to-face and promote public education when it comes to their sustainable practices. The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network, nonprofits and seven sustainable farmers set up exhibits in the Capitol rotunda Thursday and stood nearby to help legislators and the public learn more about sustainable farming methods and the people that run them.
Still brewing: Senate considering bill for small, craft breweries
The Mississippi Senate is set to review a bill soon that would allow small, craft breweries to sell beer on site. The bill passed the House with a large margin of support and will likely be referred to committee in the Senate in the next few days. Local brewer Pat Miller of Natchez Brewing Company said he is glad to see the legislation, which died last year, receiving support. Miller said, however, he is concerned that caveats added to the bill could have negative effects on Mississippi breweries. Matthew McLaughlin with the Mississippi Brewers Guild agrees that language added to the bill in a committee substitute while the bill was in the House Ways and Means Committee could negatively affect Mississippi brewers.
Cochran, Wicker vote to remove gun restrictions
U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker have voted to overturn a federal rule that prohibited some mentally ill people on Social Security from purchasing firearms. Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 57-43 to approve H.J.Res.40, effectively shutting down the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which was passed unanimously in 2007 after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech that claimed 32 lives. It now goes to President Trump for his signature. In a joint news release issued by Cochran and Wicker's office, the senators referred to the vote as overturning "an Obama-era rule infringing on Second Amendment." "This misguided rule amounts to an attempt to force more federal gun control on law-abiding citizens," Cochran said. "The rule should be overturned to stop it from infringing on their Second Amendment and due process rights." Gun safety advocacy groups disagreed.
Oxford's Richard Howorth elected TVA chair
Former Oxford mayor and Square Books owner Richard Howorth has been elected chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA board of directors elected Howorth as chair-elect during its meeting Thursday in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Howorth is in his second term on the TVA board and will assume the chair duties May 19, 2017, for the next two years. Director Lynn Evans will continue as chair until her board term expires on May 18, 2017. Howorth joined the board in 2011 and began his second term in December 2015. His current term will expire May 18, 2020. During his time on the TVA Board, Howorth has served on all five board committees – External Relations, People and Performance, Nuclear Oversight, Finance, Rates and Portfolio and Audit, Risk and Regulation.
Trump Comes Out Swinging Against Familiar Foes
President Donald Trump on Thursday handed the Senate a new Labor secretary nominee who has previously been approved by the chamber three times -- but he used the next 75 minutes to rouse his base and goad his critics. Trump walked into the East Room of the White House and announced that Alexander Acosta, a former assistant attorney general, will be his second pick to run the Labor Department after fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination on Wednesday. Political observers and even some reporters in the ornate room speculated that Trump, less than one month into his administration, was intent on "re-setting" his presidency. But Trump --- once again --- let the world know he is unlikely to change his style or back away easily from policy promises that, as he reminded reporters Thursday, helped get him elected.
IHL service award renamed to honor Karen Cummins
"She loved everyone on this board. She's a strong lady. I am so proud of her. She fought ...," Billy Cummins, husband of late Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning trustee Karen L. Cummins, said through tears. Cummins accepted the 2017 Excellence and Diversity Community Service award on behalf of his wife, who died last month after a battle with cancer. Each year, the IHL board hosts a Diversity Awards of Excellence program as a part of black history month. Cummins was appointed to the IHL board in 2012 by Gov. Phil Bryant. She also served as vice president of Atmos Energy since 2012, responsible for operations in the Delta region, the Southaven District and the Columbus and Tupelo areas. "She was a true champion of our diversity committee and our diversity effort," said Dr. Glenn Boyce, commissioner of the IHL's board of trustees. "She was steadfast, level-headed and I loved working with her. She did a great job and she will absolutely be missed."
Ole Miss campus is a no-drone zone
Drones -- or unmanned aircraft systems, as the Federal Aviation Administration refers to them -- have been used in the military for years, and, more recently, their civilian cousins have been gaining popularity. Not many of those drones will be flying on campus at the University of Mississippi, though. The university administration recently signed a policy prohibiting the recreational flying of drones on campus due to the close proximity to the airport. Emergency management coordinator Barbara Russo drafted the initial policy. After the first draft was complete, the project turned into a collaborative effort among response team members who received input from media relations and the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The policy went before an administrative council for final approval at the end of January, according to Russo. The Daily Mississippian has reached out to and is continuing to work with the university to obtain a final copy of the policy.
'Born of Conviction' author Joseph Reiff to speak at USM
On Jan. 2, 1963, 28 white Methodist ministers published the "Born of Conviction" statement criticizing Mississippi's massive resistance to the civil rights movement. The author of a book that documents that bold act and its influence on United Methodists in Mississippi more than 50 years later will speak Friday as part of the University of Southern Mississippi Department of Philosophy and Religion's "Philosophical Fridays" series. Joseph Reiff's presentation will be at 2 p.m. in Gonzales Auditorium in the Liberal Arts Building. Reiff is Shelton Professor of Religion at Emory & Henry College in Virginia and author of "Born of Conviction: White Methodists and Mississippi's Closed Society," which won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Nonfiction Award for 2015. Reiff grew up in Jackson and is a United Methodist minister.
William Carey getting ready for students Saturday
William Carey University will open its gates and facilities to students this weekend. This comes almost one month after the deadly EF-3 tornado ripped through the Hattiesburg and Petal communities. "It's like a beehive," William Carey University President Tommy King said. "There has been good cooperation with insurance companies and contractors." Crews were hired locally as well as about 600 brought in to work on campus. Ninety percent of campus was damaged in the Jan. 21 tornado, leaving six buildings destroyed on campus. "The campus looked like a war zone," King said. "As daylight arrived, we got to the parts of campus we could get to and just shook our heads. We thought, the year is lost, we will never be able to get back." King said the six buildings destroyed will not be ready for use by this weekend, but others damaged will be repaired in time.
Student body presidents: Louisiana higher education needs help
In a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards and state lawmakers, more than two dozen student body presidents at Louisiana colleges and universities complained Thursday about higher education cuts. "Over the past nine years, state funding for Louisiana's colleges and universities has been cut more than any other state in the nation," according to the letter, which was signed by 32 student leaders. "Tuition and fees have also increased by 111 percent during the same period," the letter says. "The impact of continued cuts are felt on our campuses every day with fewer classes offered, larger class sizes and a reduction of services that are vital to our academic success," the student body presidents said. The group met with Edwards earlier this week.
Texas A&M economist: Based on last year, farms face financial woes
A majority of representative farms in major U.S. production regions used to project future farm financial conditions would face serious cash flow shortfalls based on 2016 crop prices, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist told members of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture. Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, provided a statement Feb. 15 on economic conditions for crop agriculture. Outlaw said projections indicate 17 of the 23 feed grain and oilseed farms are projected to be in moderate or poor financial condition; nine of the 11 wheat farms are projected to be in moderate or poor financial condition; 11 of the 15 cotton farms are projected to be in moderate or poor financial condition; and 12 of the 15 rice farms are expected to end the period in moderate or poor financial condition.
Dale Fitch named director of U. of Missouri's School of Social Work
Dale Fitch was named the director of the MU School of Social Work on Thursday. Fitch had been serving as the interim director of the school since May 2016, according to the news release. His new position is effective immediately. Sandy Rikoon, interim dean of the College of Human Environmental Sciences, made the announcement. Fitch joined the social work faculty in 2009. Some of Fitch's responsibilities as director will include managing the school's budget and development efforts while coordinating a vision for the school's future, according to the release. Fitch's research topics focus on child welfare and organizational decision-making. He was part of the team that helped launch MU online master's of social work program in 2015.
KKK materials found at Clemson
KKK recruitment fliers found this week prompted Clemson University President Jim Clements to send a campuswide email Thursday denouncing the material. Small sheets of paper with a phone number for the KKK and phrases such as "Love your own RACE!" and "Stop Homosexuality & Race mixing" were found in sealed plastic bags on campus over the past couple of days. There were at least three papers found at Clemson's Thornhill Village apartments, and several others were reported in downtown Clemson, said Mark Land, vice president of university relations. Clements' email made it clear hate speech and related forms of discrimination would not be tolerated by his administration. A similar situation arose when KKK flyers were found on Clemson's campus last October.
Law Dean at Florida International U. Is Tapped for Labor Secretary
R. Alexander Acosta, dean of Florida International University's College of Law, is President Trump's nominee for labor secretary, the president announced on Thursday. Mr. Acosta, a former U.S. attorney, will replace Mr. Trump's former nominee, Andrew Puzder, who withdrew from the nomination after facing broad opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Mr. Acosta has served as the university's law dean since 2009. Before that, he clerked for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, worked at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, and taught at the George Mason School of Law, according to his university bio.
Study challenges cost and price myths of online education
The myth that online education courses cost less to produce and therefore save students money on tuition doesn't hold up to scrutiny, a survey of distance education providers found. The survey, conducted by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), found that most colleges charge students the same or more to study online. And when additional fees are included, more than half of distance education students pay more than do those in brick-and-mortar classrooms. The higher prices -- what students pay -- are connected to higher production costs, the survey found

Andy Cannizaro excited for season opener at Mississippi State
In November, Andy Cannizaro took the kind of job he had been dreaming of. At 4 p.m. Friday, Mississippi State's first-year baseball coach will begin it in earnest when his team opens his inaugural season against 2016 College World Series participant Texas Tech at Dudy Noble Field. "It's been even better than I could have anticipated," Cannizaro said of his time on the job. "The residents and the people in Starkville have been amazing to myself and my family. It truly, in my opinion, without even playing a game, is the mecca of college baseball." Judging by what the players have said after their first weeks of playing for Cannizaro, Friday will begin a changing of the guard in terms of MSU's playing style.
New-look Bulldogs set for debut
If you search for Mississippi State among the six college baseball preseason polls, the Bulldogs are simply nowhere to be found. The defending SEC champions are flying under the radar with a retooled roster and a new head coach in Andy Cannizaro. MSU lost 11 players to professional baseball following last year's 44-18-1 season that ended in the Starkville Super Regional. "I don't think there's a whole lot of people around the country that know what to expect from this Mississippi State baseball team this year," Cannizaro said. "What I can tell everybody is this is an extremely talented, young baseball team. There are players on this team that are going to be the next stars here at Mississippi State, they just didn't get the opportunity last year to showcase their ability because of the age and how veteran a team that was."
Andy Cannizaro wants Mississippi State to be an extension of himself
It is 7:35 a.m. Monday and Andy Cannizaro wants to know when the workout will start. "Monday," he says while a wide smile appears on his face. "Isn't that international chest day? I'm ready to roll." He looks it. Cannizaro is wearing a maroon Mississippi State T-shirt, one with the word STATE in white lettering inside a banner over the bolded letter M across his barrel chest. The sleeves of the shirt made it beyond Cannizaro's broad shoulders, but his bulging biceps prevent them from getting much further. Cannizaro has the build and boyish smile of a gym rat in his 20s, but he's 38 years old. What distinguishes this workout from any other he has performed at the complex since being named MSU's new baseball coach on Nov. 5 is the timing of it. For Cannizaro, it's the week of opening day.
Konnor Pilkington ready to be Mississippi State's No. 1 starter
Ryan Gridley is the self-proclaimed expert on the last year of Konnor Pilkington's development. After playing with Pilkington last season at Mississippi State, Gridley was a teammate of his with the Cape Cod League's Brewster Whitecaps before returning to Starkville for the fall and spring. What Gridley saw was a freshman turn into a bona-fide Friday night starter in the Southeastern Conference. "I've seen every single change along the way. He's so much more confident now after what happened this summer," said Gridley, MSU's shortstop. "He had a great summer. I saw him every single time he pitched. His velocity is jumping, his body is perfect for baseball, and it's starting to transition with all the confidence he got in the summer, and you can see it in his pitches." The year of progress that produced the current version of Pilkington, a sophomore, was enough to make him the only certain thing about the MSU baseball team's starting rotation entering this week. Pilkington will start against 2016 College World Series participant Texas Tech at 4 p.m. Friday in the season opener at Dudy Noble Field.
East Central's Konnor Pilkington set to start Mississippi State's Opening Day
Konnor Pilkington had hoped he'd get "the news," but he wasn't exactly counting on it. Pilkington has not only pitched well at every level, he has been a standout. At East Central, the left-hander was the Hornets' ace and eventually earned the Sun Herald's Player of the Year honor. As a freshman at Mississippi State last season, Pilkington eased into his role on the mound and later cemented himself as a rotation mainstay. He spent the summer competing in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League and only continued to get better against the nation's best college baseball players. Against future first-round draft picks, Pilkington did more than merely stand his own -- he dominated. So when Pilkington got the news last week that he was going to be Mississippi State's Friday night starter and new coach Andy Cannizaro's first staff ace, he was humbled but not completely surprised.
Mississippi State infield preview
Mississippi State will be missing most of its starting infield from last season. Gone are Gavin Collins, John Holland and Nathaniel Lowe leaving Ryan Gridley as the lone full-time starter returning at shortstop. Gridley started 47 games at short last season and another 15 at second base. The 5-foot-8, 177-pound junior hit .284 with a pair of home runs and 32 RBIs in 2016. He also committed only 11 errors in 63 games. "He's a guy that can really defend at a high level," said MSU coach Andy Cannizaro.
Mississippi State overcomes early struggles to down Georgia
Vic Schaefer knew Mississippi State was going to be in for a long night when his team missed four shots on its opening possession. Georgia stifled third-ranked MSU with its zone defense for over 31 minutes and it wasn't until the final 2:46 when the homestanding Bulldogs were able to take their first lead since the opening minutes when Ketara Chapel converted a traditional 3-point play. That play sparked State to finish the game on a 13-3 run to complete the comeback and win 58-49 for its 13th consecutive home victory. Mississippi State will play its next two games on the road beginning at No. 23 Texas A&M Sunday at 4 p.m. on SEC Network.
No. 3 Mississippi State rallies to beat Georgia 58-49
On one of the first possessions of the night, Mississippi State guard Victoria Vivians lost a shoe and hobbled around the court on defense for several seconds, gamely trying to stay with her assignment. It was awkward. Much like the rest of the game. No. 3 Mississippi State had one of its worst games of the season, especially on offense, but used a fourth-quarter rally to beat Georgia 58-49 on Thursday night. The Bulldogs (26-1, 12-1 Southeastern Conference) set a school record with their 12th conference victory. "I'm not sure how we won the game to be honest," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. The short answer is a very good game from the bench, especially the post players.
No. 3 Mississippi State overcomes slow start to beat Georgia
One of the more impressive things about Mississippi State's season to date had been the Bulldogs' ability to start games in an impressive, overpowering fashion, putting teams away early regardless of who the opponent was. That didn't happen Thursday night. But the No. 3 Bulldogs still finished with a win -- which was their fifth in a row -- and set a program record for most conference victories in a single season. MSU used a late run to overcome a rough start and pull off a 58-49 win over Georgia at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU coach Vic Schaefer said he had feared and anticipated this kind of a sluggish game from MSU (26-1, 12-1) and credited Georgia for providing a scare.
Sarai Niu takes long way to Mississippi State softball
What would become the biggest day of Sarai Niu's life didn't begin or end as planned. A talented high school softball-playing senior, Niu had fought back great reservations and decided to take an official visit to Mississippi State. "On the way to the airport, (the University of) Arizona called and told me they were changing my offer because they didn't have that much money for me," Niu said. "I was devastated. I made my way through the airport, boarded the plane, and was crying the whole time." In Starkville, the Mississippi State coaching staff anticipated the arrival of Niu. Assistant coach Tyler Bratton had been recruiting her through the travel ball circuit and thought she would be an exclamation point to the recruiting class.
Mississippi State softball wins opener in Mexico
Perfect weather, hot bats and strong pitching were the highlights of Thursday, as the Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-2) downed the No. 21 Fresno State Bulldogs (4-2), 4-1, in game one of the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. Led by junior Reggie Harrison, who went 3-for-3 with a double, a home run and two RBI, the Bulldogs erased an early FSU lead and never looked back. "Very proud of this team for how they performed today and the amount of energy they brought from start to finish," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. "Whether it was someone on the field or in the dugout, the energy was incredible and it sparked our performance. Now we have to put our focus on the games tomorrow and continuing to play with high energy all the time."
New Kentucky baseball coach Nick Mingione determined to make Cats earn while they learn
During the last week of fall practice, Kentucky's new baseball coach, Nick Mingione, wore a plain cotton T-shirt and unadorned blue cap. He'd been wearing them since the first day when he told his team they'd all be earning their UK gear based on the performance goals he and the new coaching staff set. But unlike Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski's recent move to strip the Blue Devils of their logo gear midseason for not living up to his standards, Mingione was setting a new standard for all the players and himself. "Some of my buddies were teasing me, 'Hey, you're the head coach at Kentucky and you can't get a UK on your hat?'" Mingione said at the Cats' preseason media day last week. Little by little, each Kentucky player earned his gear. And it soon became evident, as players began rooting for each other, that earning their "swag" wasn't just about meeting the new standards, it was about developing camaraderie and a new culture. Mingione, who opens his first season as Kentucky head coach on Friday at North Carolina, spent the last eight seasons as an assistant at Mississippi State under John Cohen.
AP Source: NFL bars Mississippi QB Chad Kelly from combine due to past troubles
Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly's past troubles are the reasons the NFL revoked his invitation to the league's scouting combine. A person familiar with the league's decision told The Associated Press that Kelly is barred from participating in the event because of charges stemming from a fight outside a Buffalo nightclub and for being dismissed by Clemson. Both incidents happened in 2014. The person spoke to The AP on the condition of anonymity on Thursday because the NFL has not revealed the reason Kelly was not included on the list of participants released by the league a day earlier.
New U. of Tennessee chancellor gets Vols slogan wrong in tweet, and fans let her know it
University of Tennessee supporters are apparently sticklers for detail. New UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport is finding that out on her first week on the job. Davenport's first UT-centric tweet, under the handle @ChancellorDav, says: "I will give my all to Tennessee today and always." The problem? The actual slogan, which Vol football players slap on their way to the field on game day, reads: "I will give my all for Tennessee today." It's a minor error, perhaps, but one that UT fans didn't let go unnoticed. Of course all will be forgiven if Davenport makes the right choice for the Vols' next athletic director. Who that will be remains to be seen.
Toomer's Corner to be 'whole again' with new oak trees
Auburn wants to make the famed entrance to the university at the corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue "whole again." The tree on Magnolia Avenue was damaged in September when Jochen Wiest lit it on fire. With work to remove and install new oak trees at Toomer's Corner starting Saturday at 6 a.m., Auburn professor of horticulture Gary Keever held a press conference Tuesday from the location to discuss plans for the location, which also includes replacing the tree on College Street. The trees installed in 2015 were chosen to match the original ones poisoned in 2013, which turned out to be a challenging set of parameters. "The (South Carolina) nursery had actually been abandoned in 2007," Keever said. "The trees had not been root pruned, which is vital for concentrating the roots close to the trunk in at least 10 years. The trees had not been managed. They hadn't been under irrigation."

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