Friday, March 3, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
College and Elementary Students Celebrate Dr. Seuss
Science and reading come together for a fun lesson in West Point. First and second graders at Church Hill Elementary School celebrated "Read Across America" for Dr. Seuss' birthday Thursday. Students from Mississippi State and West Point High conducted various activities. The younger students rotated through stations that combined literacy and science. The MSU students are education majors in the university's Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program.
 
Greater Starkville Development Partnership analyzing CEO's role before hire
Greater Starkville Development Partnership Board of Trustees Chairwoman Michelle Amos said the organization could hire a new chief executive officer by the end of March. While Amos would not reveal how many people have applied for the position, she said the board's search committee -- which is comprised of executive officers and the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority, Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau and Starkville Main Street Association -- has remained "active since December." The Partnership board first set application deadlines for Dec. 31 but adjusted the window "to remain open until the position is filled," Amos said. "We hope to be able to make an announcement this month," she said. "We're still plugging away."
 
Academy Sports to open in late spring, add 100 jobs to area
Academy Sports and Outdoors on Highway 12 is almost finished with construction and the store is set to open in late spring, bringing around 100 new jobs to Starkville. The Starkville location will be Academy's eighth location in Mississippi. Currently, the closest Academy Sports store to Starkville is in Tupelo. The store is positioned behind the AT&T store and Sweet Pepper's. "We're always looking to expand, and we're excited to offer the Starkville community a convenient new shopping destination," Academy Sports Communication Specialist Karly Makovy said. "Because our store caters to active-minded customers, the Starkville area was a great fit ...We are excited to be in Starkville and serve those Bulldog customers." "The store is going to bring approximately 100 jobs to the area," Makovy said.
 
Navistar gets $440M contract for West Point
Two weeks after getting a $35 million contract to build mine-resistant ambush-protected MaxxPro Dash armored vehicles for Pakistan, Navistar received a much bigger contract that was announced today. A $440 million U.S. Army contract will reset and upgrade 1,085 MRAP MaxxPro armored vehicles and related accessories for the United Arab Emirates. The announcement was made by U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and U.S Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.). The work, which will be done at the Navistar Defense facility in West Point, is expected to be completed by March 2019. In addition to the contract awarded two weeks ago, which will be completed by October 2018, Navistar last May was awarded a $29.7 million U.S. Army contract modification to upgrade 250 MRAPs.
 
Sen. Thad Cochran unveils billions in shipbuilding for Coast
The day after the Trump administration said it would cut from its budget a Coast Guard cutter project championed by Sen. Thad Cochran and set to be built in Pascagoula, the senior senator from Mississippi released a list of ships included in the latest Defense appropriations bill. Cochran chairs the Appropriations Committee, which put billions of dollars in new shipbuilding in the bill. Cochran, as chairman of the committee and its Subcommittee on Defense, said there is agreement between the Senate and House on the bill. "I am optimistic that Congress will approve this agreement and give the Department of Defense what it requires to keep our nation safe and meet the needs of our servicemen and women," Cochran said in a press release.
 
Sen. Thad Cochran recognized for 38 years in Senate
Republican leaders praised Sen. Thad Cochran Thursday for his 38 years in the Senate making him the 10th longest serving senator in the chamber. "With over 38 years of service in this body, Sen. Thad Cochran has proven himself to be a leader and a statesman," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. Cochran, 79, began his Senate career Dec. 27, 1978. McConnell, of Kentucky, noted that when Cochran was elected to the Senate, it was the first time a Republican had won a statewide election in the state in more than a century. "When he decided to run, Sen. Cochran didn't falter in the face of long odds. He campaigned hard, and he won," McConnell said. "Because of his passionate and dedicated service, the people of Mississippi have sent him back time and again."
 
Public Employees Retirement System could offer higher pay as it seeks director
Mississippi could offer a higher salary while seeking a new director for its Public Employees Retirement System, under a bill headed to the governor. The current PERS director, Pat Robertson, said in a letter Wednesday to state agency directors, employees and retirees that she intends to retire in mid- to late 2018. She started working for the pension system in 1980 and became director in 2005. Robertson is one of many state government employees whose salary is limited to no more than 150 percent of what the governor is paid. With the governor's salary at $122,160, the cap is $183,240. Sen. Barbara Blackmon, D- Canton, said Thursday that House Bill 1301 would lift the cap for the PERS director and let the pension system's board offer a higher salary to a new person in the job. Robertson's pay would not be affected. Several senators expressed concerns about state spending.
 
Senate votes to remove salary caps for two PERS leaders
After tense debate and a legal snag, the Senate passed a bill Thursday that would remove statutory caps on salaries for two leaders of the state's employee retirement agency. The bill, which updates and cleans up numerous code sections dealing with the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS), removes the cap for the PERS executive director and chief investment officer. Proponents of the measure -- both Republicans and Democrats -- said the salary caps put Mississippi's retirement agency at a disadvantage, disallowing the state from hiring qualified and capable administrators who might be paid more in other states. But opponents of the bill said the proposal would contradict other measures passed this session to tighten the state's spending. At one point during the two-hour debate Thursday morning, sports analogies -- football, basketball and baseball -- flowed through the chamber floor to illustrate points.
 
Senate approves PERS raise
After lengthy debate, the Senate passed a measure that would remove the salary cap for the director and chief investment officer positions at the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System. Supporters of the measure say the PERS board needs to be able to offer a competitive salary to hire a capable new director. "In short, I don't think you get anywhere with cheap help," said Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory. With the cap lifted, the PERS board would set the salary for a new director. Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, said he was voting for the bill to allow a competitive salary, but urged his colleagues to more closely monitor PERS. "We can't keep sticking our head in the sand like an ostrich," Tindell said. "If we don't do something about it, it's going to bankrupt the state."
 
Rep. Andy Gipson: 'I have a solution' for domestic violence, divorce issues
Facing some criticism for killing a bill making domestic violence a grounds for divorce, Rep. Andy Gipson said Thursday that he will offer a solution to the issue soon. "I am pleased to report I've been working with some of our attorneys here in the House and we have a very viable and very meaningful solution that was not addressed by the Senate bills that died in our committee last deadline day," Gipson said after the House adjourned Thursday. When asked what his solution was, Gipson, R-Braxton, would only say that he would announce it next week, but he did provide some hints. "Based on my research, the problem is not what the law says but how judges are implementing the law," Gipson said. "I think we have good laws on the books, but we don't have a uniform application of those laws," he said.
 
Deer, turkey harvest reporting dead?
In a move that surprised some, a bill calling for mandatory harvest reporting of deer and wild turkeys died in the Senate Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks committee. But according to one senator, that's not the end of it. House Bill 1028, authored by House Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks committee chairman Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia, passed in the House with 83 votes in favor and 35 against. The idea of harvest reporting also enjoys support from Mississippi's hunters. Sen. Phillip Moran, R-Kiln, who is the chairman of the Senate Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks committee explained his decision allow the bill to die. "We felt like we needed a few more months to talk about what we wanted to do with it," Moran said. "Sometimes when you rush a bill, it may not come out exactly how you like. Let's look at it and make sure we do it right." Hunting in Mississippi means big money. According to the 2016 Mississippi State University Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources report, hunting generates $1.1 billion in economic impacts in Mississippi annually.
 
Bill: Pharmacies can now sell marijuana oil
A bill is on the way to the governor that will allow other pharmacies to join the University of Mississippi Medical Center to manufacture and sell marijuana oil for the treatment of children who suffer with epilepsy seizures. The House passed Senate Bill 2610 on Thursday that amends Harper Grace's Law, which was passed three years ago and named after then-2-year-old Harper Grace Durval who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. The legislation passed in 2014 allowed marijuana oil to be used to treat children in Mississippi who suffer from epilepsy seizures. It also removed the cannabis extract oil from the state's illegal drugs list. The original Harper Grace legislation only allowed UMMC Pharmacy to mix the compound and dispense cannabis oil. Senate Bill 2610 says with federal and state regulatory approval, UMMC Pharmacy or another pharmacy or laboratory in the state can prepare and dispense the drug.
 
Rivers McGraw Act now in Senate
A bill that would require parents to be notified before anyone under 21 could be granted bond after being arrested for drugs or driving under the influence is now in the hands of the Senate. House Bill 1089 was passed unanimously by the House on Feb. 23 and pushed through to the Senate. The bill, named the Rivers McGraw Act, is now on the Senate calendar to be voted on the floor whenever Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves calls it for a vote. The bill was introduced by Rep. Andy Gipson on behalf of Lauren McGraw, the mother of Rivers McGraw, a University of Mississippi student from Madison who committed suicide in November, three hours after being arrested for his second DUI since 2015. Lauren McGraw says her son was bonded out by a friend and she was never notified of the arrest. The Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police is not in support of the bill, according to Oxford Police Chief Joey East, who also serves as MACP president.
 
Ole Miss students rally after 'Rivers' Law' faces opposition
University of Mississippi students gathered near the Lyceum to show their support of "Rivers Law." "I think a lot of kids in college and in high school, go to jail and they don't tell their parents. They don't allow their parents to come and help and offer support and possible send them to a treatment center," said Sterling Eaves, an Ole Miss student and friend of Rivers. Rivers' Law or House Bill 1089, would require parents or guardians be contacted and consent to the release of anyone arrested for DUI or controlled substance violations, if the offender is under age of 21. The law was proposed by Lauren McGraw, after her son Rivers McGraw, an Ole Miss student, committed suicide. "He had been to treatment once. I thought he was doing good at Ole Miss. He was going to class, and getting good grades and attending support meetings. I had no idea he had fallen off the wagon. I didn't know," said Lauren McGraw, Rivers' mom.
 
USM students problem solve for military in new course
This summer, Southern Miss students could help U.S. military personnel who have encountered problems identifying and tracking individuals in crowd environments. Or they might come up with wearable sensors to help Navy divers work at any depth or temperature. A new course offered at the University of Southern Mississippi beginning this summer session will have students solving problems for the military and federal national security organizations. Hacking for Defense isn't about breaking into military computers, it's about finding new solutions -- or hacks -- to the military's problems, said Chase Kasper, assistant vice president for research, technology transfer and corporate relations. "This class was formed out of a need for problem solving for all branches of the military," he said. "It fits into some of the grants we're working on in the military sector about efficiency.
 
Long search for U. of Kentucky diversity chief results in one internal candidate
Two years and two searches later, a University of Kentucky hiring committee has announced a "preferred" candidate for the position of vice president for institutional diversity. Their pick, Sonja Feist-Price, was the co-chairwoman of the first search committee, which formed in September 2016, more than a year after the 2015 departure of former vice president, JJ Jackson. Feist-Price, who is UK's senior assistant provost for faculty affairs and has been an education professor in the department of early childhood since 2004, became a candidate for the open position earlier in January. The job is one of 10 that reports directly to President Eli Capilouto. The Office of Institutional Diversity oversees the Martin Luther King Center, the Office of LGBTQ services, the Center for Graduate and Professional Diversity Initiatives and Student Support Services. Although UK often conducts national searches to fill its top jobs, these search committees never looked beyond UK's campus.
 
U. of Kentucky loses to PETA in lawsuit seeking records about animal experiments
The University of Kentucky must release animal research records to the national animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a Fayette Circuit Court judge has ruled. Judge Pamela Goodwine agreed with Attorney General Andy Beshear that UK had violated the Kentucky Open Records Act when it refused in 2014 to give PETA its protocols for using animals in teaching exercises. UK refused the request, saying the protocols contained personal information that could be used by activists to target animal researchers and that the protocols were preliminary documents not subject to the open records law. PETA appealed to the Office of Attorney General, which found UK in violation of the state law. UK then appealed that decision by suing PETA in Fayette Circuit Court. UK must disclose the protocols, Goodwin ordered, although UK may redact the contact information of faculty and staff.
 
U. of Tennessee pays millions to former administrators who are now faculty
Former University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek will earn $340,650 annually as a professor, which is 75 percent of his chancellor's salary and nearly double that of the next highest-paid faculty member in the department. Cheek's contract does not stipulate a point in time when his salary would revert to department standards. In other words, the arrangement is for an unlimited time period. UT President Joe DiPietro, who currently earns an annual salary of $465,618, has a similar deal for when he leaves his administrative position. He's contracted to earn 75 percent of his final base salary as president should he move to a 12-month faculty position in the College of Veterinary Medicine. His contract also specifies no time limit. A Washington, D.C., lawyer who specializes in higher education and administrator contracts said that while paying retreat salaries is typical, it is highly unusual to set them at 75 percent of an administrative salary for an unlimited period of time.
 
Faculty committee moves to shorten UGA semesters by a week
Rebellious faculty members on a University of Georgia committee voted to shorten the university's academic calendar by a week beginning in fall 2018 -- matching the calendars of the state's other two major public research universities, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University. The proposal adopted by the executive committee of the UGA University Council now heads to the full council for a vote at the council's next scheduled meeting March 22. Students would still get a day off in fall for the Georgia-Florida football game, and take a full week off for Thanksgiving. The decision may force University System of Georgia administrators to deal with a question UGA faculty and administrators have been wrangling over since the beginning of last fall semester: Are UGA students and teachers spending a week more in class than they're required to by state and federal rules? Or are the other schools falling short of rules that require 750 hours of instructor-student contact time per credit hour in a semester that must span 15 weeks?
 
Texas A&M transportation and health researchers combine forces on air pollutants
Mapping out the effect of air pollution on Americans is often done in two parts -- transportation researchers do studies on vehicle emissions and health researchers do studies on conditions such as asthma and how brain development is affected. A new center run by Texas A&M aims to bring these two parties together. Texas A&M and four other universities received more than $11 million from the Department of Transportation to fund The Center for Advancing Research in Transportation Emissions, Energy and Health, or CAR-TEEH. The center is one of 32 that received five years of funding in December to tackle problems related to the nation's transportation needs. CAR-TEEH brings together researchers from Texas A&M, Johns Hopkins University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas-El Paso and the University of California-Riverside.
 
Texas A&M dean of medicine decries budget cuts
Higher education institutions statewide are looking at the possibility of substantial funding cuts as lawmakers push to tighten their budget, leading many university officials to consider the potentially dramatic results those reductions could have. After only one month on the job, Texas A&M Vice Chancellor for Health Services, Dean of the College of Medicine and Senior Vice President for the Health Science Center Carrie Byington said she already has been forced to make difficult decisions in the face of an uncertain economic climate -- including cuts to the number of students who will be admitted to the next class of Texas A&M's medical school. "Sadly, as a new dean, one of my first decisions was to cut the class size," said Byington, adding that the normally 200-student class could see up to a 25 percent reduction.
 
Congress May Turn Focus to Higher Education Law's Renewal
Early in the summer of 2015, progress on a new federal K-12 law seemed to be stalled, and key members of Congress were turning their attention to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. But the script has flipped, and 18 months later, as the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act enters its final stages, lawmakers are taking a close look at revamping the law governing colleges and universities. A broad set of issues will be under the microscope, from Pell Grants for low-income prospective students, to the information about higher education programs made available to families as K-12 students consider their postsecondary careers. Republican lawmakers appear ready to put their own stamp on the HEA, which technically expired in 2013 and was last reauthorized in 2008.
 
As State Budget Revenues Fall Short, Higher Education Faces A Squeeze
Eric Greitens had barely been Missouri's governor for a week when he faced a pretty tough decision: cutting the Show Me State's budget. The state didn't get as much revenue as expected, prompting the Republican governor to cut $68 million in core funding to colleges, universities and community colleges for the current budget year. That amounts to about 8 percent of the general revenue that goes to colleges and community colleges. And he's proposing additional cuts for next year's budget, which takes effect in July. Greitens isn't the only governor who's recently cut higher education spending to deal with budget woes. At least 24 states have reported that revenues this year have come in weaker than expected, according the National Association of State Budget Officers. That's resulted in cuts to higher education spending in several states, including Iowa, New Mexico and Louisiana.
 
Notre Dame, known for commencement speeches by new presidents, invites VP Mike Pence
In 1981, President Reagan's first trip after surviving an assassination attempt was to deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. In 2009, many anti-abortion activists (largely outside the university) condemned Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to deliver the address, given his support for abortion rights. But he was warmly received and praised the university for being willing to listen to all views. University leaders at the time noted the tradition of inviting presidents, many times in their first years in office. That tradition may have ended Thursday, when Notre Dame announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be this year's commencement speaker. The Reverend John I. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, said shortly after Election Day that he was reconsidering the tradition of inviting new presidents to speak at commencement.
 
Even with super majority, you don't always get what you want
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "Every now and then, there is just enough of an uprising to remind the legislative leadership -- namely Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves -- that a super majority does not give them carte blanche to pass whatever they want. That was evident on Tuesday's deadline when a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats to kill legislation that would have removed civil service protection for state employees. Tuesday was the deadline for that bill and dozens of others to be passed out of committee in the chamber where the proposal did not originate. For years, taking away Personnel Board protection, which is the equivalent of civil service protection in Mississippi, was viewed as part of the Holy Grail of the state Republicans agenda."


SPORTS
 
Bulldogs set for West Coast series at Oregon
Andy Cannizaro sees a lot of his own team in Oregon. MSU's first-year baseball coach, in the midst of installing a more aggressive offensive approach both at the plate and on the base paths, is taking his team on the road to face a similarly minded Oregon team for a three-game series, beginning Friday night. It is MSU's last games away from Dudy Noble Field until opening up Southeastern Conference play at Arkansas. "They're your traditional West Coast baseball team: they're going to bunt, they're going to run, they're going to put pressure on the defense, they're going to do all of those things to create runs," Cannizaro said. "Obviously it will be a tremendous challenge for us in the infield, it will be a tremendous challenge for us on the mound and behind the plate."
 
Oregon Trail: Bulldogs making first road trip
After opening the year with a nine-game homestand, Andy Cannizaro will take Mississippi State out on the road for the first time traveling to Oregon for a weekend series. The Diamond Dogs (6-3) begin a series with the Ducks at 8 tonight and continues Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. "It's going to be an extremely competitive series," Cannizaro said. "It's to be an opportunity for us to go out on the road and go see what we're made of. We're going to take our show on the road. We'll get in a practice out there, get in a hotel and play three games against outstanding competition." MSU swept the then No. 9 Oregon last season in Starkville to start a string of five consecutive weekend series victories en route to an SEC Championship. The Bulldogs are hoping to start another such streak today.
 
Mississippi State's Andy Cannizaro focused on shoring up bullpen
As of Wednesday afternoon, Mississippi State baseball coach Andy Cannizaro didn't know who was going to start the final game of this weekend's three-game series against Oregon. The doubt had nothing to do with that final spot in the starting rotation. "Everything we're going to do this weekend has the full priority of strengthening that bullpen," Cannizaro said. Injuries and recent ninth-inning struggles have led Cannizaro to focus on his bullpen as MSU (6-3) enters its first traditional three-game weekend series of the season. The series at Oregon, which begins Friday night, is MSU's only non-conference road series prior to the start of Southeastern Conference play in two weeks at Arkansas.
 
Jim Ellis retiring from Mississippi State football, basketball broadcasts
Mississippi State football and men's basketball will have a different sound to it next season. Longtime radio broadcaster Jim Ellis is retiring from the air in those sports at the conclusion of the Bulldogs' basketball season. Ellis will continue calling MSU baseball games. The West Point native has been calling basketball for the Bulldogs since 1983 and started calling football alongside Jack Cristil in 1991. Ellis has been the play-by-play commentator for both sports since Cristil's retirement in 2011. Ellis was named Outstanding Broadcaster in Mississippi by the National Sports Media Association in 1998, 2002, 2013 and 2014.
 
Mississippi State women will try to erase 'sting' of last two losses
The sting remains. Instead of celebrating four seniors who have been a part of so many records, the Mississippi State women's basketball team suffered its worst loss of the season Sunday in an 82-64 loss to Tennessee before a sold-out Humphrey Coliseum. The loss denied MSU (27-3, 13-3 Southeastern Conference) a chance to earn a share of the first SEC regular-season title in program history. It also left the Bulldogs with a two-game losing streak to end the regular season. But MSU coach Vic Schaefer isn't worried. The veteran coach is convinced he knows how "to fix" the issues that have plagued the Bulldogs in the last two games. "I am fired up and ready for the week," Schaefer said Tuesday at a media availability.
 
Conference quest begins today for Bulldogs
Mississippi State posted one of its best regular seasons in school history going 27-3 and enters the SEC Tournament with its highest seed at No. 2. But the Bulldogs come into today's 5 p.m. game with No. 7 seed LSU on the SEC Network having lost their final two games, which also cost them the overall league title. "The sting of it is we had a chance to win an SEC championship and that's what makes it worse than it is," said MSU coach Vic Schaefer. "We've got to get past the sting and realize we've had a great year and have so much in front of us, so much we still can do and so many things we can accomplish. We've got the tools to do it so we have to get back to work and go do it." State intends to move on from back-to-back losses, get back on track in the SEC Tournament and carry that momentum into the NCAA Tournament.
 
Chloe Jackson leads LSU past Ole Miss in SEC tournament to play Mississippi State today
Chloe Jackson didn't want to go home. While redshirt junior Raigyne Moncrief, the Lady Tigers' leader in scoring, rebounding, assists and energy, sat on the bench in foul trouble, Jackson fueled LSU to a 65-49 win over Ole Miss on Thursday in the second round of the Southeastern Conference women's basketball tournament. Jackson, a redshirt sophomore, poured in 22 points and pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds for her second double-double of the season while playing in her first SEC tournament, after redshirting last season following her transfer from North Carolina State. The Lady Tigers move on play No. 2 seed Mississippi State in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Friday. The teams met on New Year's Day in Starkville, Mississippi, where LSU fell 74-48. LSU is 4-0 against MSU in the SEC tournament. The Mississippi State loss was the Lady Tigers' worst of the season, but Mitchell said the goal is to enjoy the win and stick with the game plan the coaches prepare for Friday night's rematch against the Bulldogs.
 
Mississippi State women start with new slate at SEC tournament
The Dispatch's Adam Minichino writes: " Wipe the slate clean. Throw out the 27 victories. Forget the losses in the last two games. None of it means anything at this time of the season. That's because it's all about survive and advance. It's no wonder why Madness is such an appropriate word because teams are going to try to do anything they can in the next month to extend their seasons. ...At 5 p.m. today (SEC), second-seeded MSU will need all of those ingredients when it takes on No. 7 seed LSU in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament in Greenville, South Carolina. As we saw earlier Thursday in 12th-seeded Alabama's 72-64 victory against fifth-seeded Tennessee -- the same Lady Volunteers squad that blitzed the Bulldogs 82-64 on Sunday in Starkville -- teams risk an early trip home if they don't play with a sense of urgency or let up the slightest. Tennessee led by 10 points in the third quarter only to see Alabama rally and earn an improbable third-straight victory in the series."
 
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen ready to begin search for 2017 starters
Columbus High School standout Kylin Hill could be one of many Mississippi State football signees to contribute early in his career. That's the mind-set MSU coach Dan Mullen had on National Signing Day as he talked about Hill and the rest of his signing class. "I thought when we looked at him that he was one of the best, if not the best, running back in the country," Mullen said. Even without Hill, who won't enroll until the summer, spring practice could serve as the first indicator of where MSU's rushing yards will come from in 2017. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald returns after rushing for a team-high 1,375 yards. No other Bulldog ran for more than 725. There is a precedent for Fitzgerald to take on even more. Dak Prescott also was the team's leading rusher as a sophomore. He then had 76 more carries and 157 more yards as a junior.
 
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen back to work with new contract
The first words Dan Mullen uttered to reporters following Mississippi State's first spring practice? "I love football." Beginning his ninth year with the Bulldogs and fresh off a newly signed contract extension, Mullen was glad to be back to work with his team on Thursday along with four new coaches and 13 mid-year enrollees. "It's so much fun to be out there," Mullen said. "It's great having the offseason and pushing guys in conditioning but man, I love football. So to get back out there and get back going was a lot of fun." MSU returns to work Sunday with practice closed to the public and media.
 
Quarterback depth looms large as Bulldogs begin spring practice
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald took the field for Mississippi State first football practice of the spring and noticed something: absence. "I was kind of standing out there like, 'Where did everyone go?'" Fitzgerald said. MSU enters the spring with just two scholarship quarterbacks, Fitzgerald and early enrollee freshman Keytaon Thompson, plus walk-on Logan Burnett. Being that thin at quarterback has inspired MSU coach Dan Mullen to significantly dial back the contact this spring. "They're not going to be getting near the quarterbacks this spring," Mullen said. "Last year, you guys got to some of it last spring and they got knocked around a little bit; nobody's touching the quarterbacks this spring. Those guys will get their work in." As to be expected for an established dual-threat quarterback, Fitzgerald had mixed emotions about the lack of contact scheduled for spring practice. "I love playing football, I love running the ball so I love being physical, hitting and sometimes delivering licks, but I also understand the necessity to keep us," Fitzgerald said.
 
Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald no longer a final name in a list
Nick Fitzgerald returned this spring to Mississippi State as one of the top quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference, but in August 2012 his name was among the last in a list of 300. Mississippi State assistant recruiting coordinator Niel Stopczynski didn't skip over him, and nowadays many Bulldogs' fans are thankful he didn't. But he certainly could have -- and it wasn't like there was ever going to be an uproar back then if he passed over a quarterback prospect who didn't even start at the position at the time for his high school team. That day more than four years ago was the first time Fitzgerald's name was seen by a Bulldogs staffer. Stopczynski saw it on his computer listed around number 298, as he remembers, in a compilation of Georgia prospects thought to have Division I talent by a recruiting service MSU uses.
 
Dan Mullen continues to thrive outside the spotlight at Mississippi State
Another offseason came and went without Dan Mullen loading up the moving van and fleeing Starkville, Mississippi. There was speculation, of course, that he would take a job elsewhere. Maybe another Power 5 program would make a run at him after watching him build Mississippi State into a perennial bowl team. Or maybe the NFL would take interest, given the way Dak Prescott, one of his former quarterbacks, transitioned so well to starting for the Cowboys. There were reports on both ends of the spectrum these past few months. But in the end, Mullen sat tight and collected a four-year contract extension earlier this week that will pay him $4.5 million this season. Looking ahead to next season, there's no reason to believe Mullen won't pull off some of the same magic we've become accustomed to.
 
I.J. Ready prepares for final home game as Mississippi State takes on LSU Saturday
On Saturday, Mississippi State senior guard I.J. Ready will take the court at Humphrey Coliseum for the final time. Before the game, his parents and his brother will join him -- he hopes his grandparents and an uncle can make it to Starkville, too -- for a pregame ceremony remembering his career in its final days. It will also be the final appearance at The Hump for MSU basketball's favorite infant, Malaki Ready. Eleven months to the day after his birth, Malaki will join his father I.J. on his Senior Day, the final home game for MSU's only upperclassman. MSU will try to break a seven-game losing streak as it hosts LSU in the regular season finale (5 p.m., SEC Network).
 
Mississippi State softball team wants to build streak
There is a buzz in the Mississippi State softball team's locker room. Eight-game winning streaks always help create that excitement. "The confidence level on this team is growing," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. "You can see the strides from the first week of the season to the second, then from the second to the third." MSU (12-3) will open a seven-game homestand against Alabama State (3-9) at 6 p.m. today at Nusz Park. It then will play host to the three-day, four-team Bulldog Slamboree. Samford, Massachusetts, and Central Arkansas will round out the field. The homestand will end with a nationally televised battle against Troy at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (SEC Network). The opening SEC series will be March 10-12 at Texas A&M.
 
Ole Miss releases Tae-Kion Reed from letter of intent
Ole Miss has released New Hope senior defensive lineman Tae-Kion Reed from his national letter of intent, a spokesperson with the university has confirmed to The Dispatch. Reed, 19, was arrested Tuesday on a burglary of a dwelling charge after he allegedly broke into an acquaintance's home in the New Hope area on Saturday and stole about a dozen firearms. Three unnamed juveniles have also been arrested in the incident, according to Lowndes County sheriff's deputies. Reed was released from Lowndes County Adult Detention Center Wednesday after posting $10,000 bond. The same Ole Miss spokesperson did not comment on Reed's status with the program on Wednesday, simply saying the team was gathering information at the time.
 
U. of Tennessee welcomes 'known commodity' John Currie as new AD
Like a college coach going after a major recruit, Chancellor Beverly Davenport made an in-home visit to lure a new athletic director to the University of Tennessee. Davenport flew to Manhattan, Kansas, on Tuesday morning to convince John Currie to return to Tennessee. Currie picked Davenport up at the airport and pulled out a Power T glass when Davenport requested a drink of water. After Currie's mother gave Davenport a hug, they sat down at his kitchen table to discuss business. Davenport eventually made Currie an offer he couldn't refuse. "The chancellor pulled out that piece of a paper after a few hours and all I could think about was Maxim No. 2 - play for and make the breaks and when it comes your way score," Currie said. "So I pulled out that pen and signed that paper real fast." In front of a crowd that included former UT quarterback great Peyton Manning, Currie was publicly introduced as Tennessee's new athletic director on Thursday afternoon in a ceremony at Thompson-Boling Arena.
 
Auburn's Jay Jacobs named NACDA Athletics Director of the Year
Jay Jacobs has been named a 2016-17 Athletics Director of the Year, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics announced Thursday. "I'm humbled by this honor, and I deeply appreciate NACDA and the distinguished selection committee for recognizing Auburn Athletics," Jacobs said in a statement released by the university. "This award is a credit to the entire university, the Auburn Athletics Department staff, our coaches and student-athletes. I share it with each of them." Jacobs was nominated for the award by Auburn President Jay Gogue, who said in a statement that "This is a great day for Auburn and a tremendous honor for Jay Jacobs, his staff and all those who are responsible for this well-deserved recognition." Jacobs was named Auburn's athletics director in 2005 and has worked in the department for 20 years.
 
In Letter, Art Briles Denies Covering Up Sexual Violence at Baylor
Breaking months of public silence, the former Baylor football coach Art Briles said Thursday that he had not covered up sexual violence by his players or tried to obstruct any investigations tied to the assault scandal at Baylor, the nation's largest Baptist university. Briles released a one-page letter saying he could no longer remain silent and defending himself against allegations that he had ignored incidents of assault and run a football program whose members considered themselves above the rules. The letter came a day after the Texas Rangers, the state's elite criminal investigation unit, said it had opened a preliminary probe into how Baylor handled assault reports over several years. Baylor filed Briles in May 2016 and demoted its president at the time, Ken Starr, who later resigned, after an outside law firm concluded that the school had mishandled cases for years.



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