Friday, March 10, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Mississippi State stays active in improvements
Improvements at Mississippi State University span from new facilities on Blackjack Road to infrastructure improvements in the middle of campus. University Architect Tim Muzzi, who works in the Office of Planning Design and Construction Administration at MSU, said the university constantly has developments in the works on and around campus. "Right now, large and small, we probably have about 65 projects going on," Muzzi said. Muzzi is an alumnus of the school, and has worked there for the past 13 years. "We have probably done close to $900 million in improvements in that time," Muzzi said. "Since Dr. (Mark) Keenum was here, we have probably done about $600 million worth of projects. I applaud Dr. Keenum. He has been able to help fund money from the state and donors, and all of that to support what we do."
 
In Service to Others: Led by NSPE members, Mississippi State students provide clean water in Zambia
Volunteers from the Mississippi State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA step onto a largely rural and undeveloped stretch of African terrain. Despite the 17-hour flight and being far removed from all the familiar amenities of home, they are excited. The chapter has returned once again, hopeful in their plans to aid the Simwatachela Chiefdom. Since 2013, the students and mentors of MSU EWB have made annual trips to the chiefdom, located in southern Zambia, to address extreme water scarcity in the region. The efforts to engineer solutions have helped secure life-sustaining resources and a higher quality of life for the more than 300 villages within Simwatachela. At Mississippi State University, NSPE member Dennis Truax, P.E., F.NSPE, is the chapter's faculty adviser. The civil and environmental engineering department head has traveled to Zambia each summer since 2013.
 
Farmers expected to dedicate more acreage to cotton in 2017
Cotton is making a comeback in Mississippi. With prices of major commodities like soybeans and corn at levels that are making it a challenge to be profitable, ag experts to see an increase in cotton acreage planted in Mississippi this year. "The outlook for the 2016-2017 crop is we are going to a fairly considerable increase in cotton acres," said Larry Falconer, Ph.D., an extension professor with the Delta Research and Extension Center. "Cotton prices have rebounded. With cotton futures in mid-70s per pound range for the new crop, it looks like the margins for cotton production are much better than they have been in the past two or three years." Brian Williams, Ph.D, assistant extension professor, Mississippi State University, said the biggest crop planted in Mississippi is soybeans. He anticipates seeing more soybean acres planted in 2017 in Mississippi and across the country.
 
Here comes the sun: Daylight Saving Time starts Sunday
This Sunday at 2 a.m., your clocks will jump ahead one hour, the start of more evening sunlight for months to come. To many a minor annoyance or a bit of relief, Daylight Saving Time reminds us of the sun's daily effect on our lives and tells us spring is on its way. If only we could save ourselves from the seasonal allergies. But no matter what the time change tells you, Daylight Saving Time is implemented for a reason. The tradition of springing forward and falling back is overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation and is rooted in saving energy.
 
Early state budget draft has more drastic cuts
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed numerous spending bills --- full of large budget cuts to many agencies --- on to its full chamber as the 2017 Mississippi legislative session enters its final few weeks and lawmakers get down to dickering on a more than $6 billion state budget. Various agencies' budgets are subject to wax and wane from preliminary numbers as Senate and House leaders negotiate, but overall the budget is full of red ink as revenue shortfalls for the current year top $130 million. An "FY 2018 Senate Action vs FY 2017" report released Thursday shows most agencies -- except K-12 public education -- taking cuts, many of them large. "We are dealing with a pie, a set amount of money," Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke told committee members. "I don't see it growing.
 
Confederate flag spat could gum up Mississippi policy work
A top Mississippi lawmaker is blocking an effort to punish universities that refuse to fly the Confederate-themed state flag --- a symbol that critics see as racist. The state House passed a bill Wednesday saying public universities could not receive certain tax breaks unless they display the flag. All eight schools have removed it because of the Confederate battle emblem. The bill was held for more debate, but Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, said Thursday that he will kill the bill by not bringing it up. "It's really built a lot of animosity," Smith said of the flag proposal. However, the fight persists. Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton said telling universities to fly the flag could create First Amendment problems.
 
Flag amendment is dead -- and alive
One effort to force state colleges and universities to fly the Mississippi state flag is dead, but another remains alive following House action Thursday. It started Wednesday with discussion on Senate Bill 2509. Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, used the bill as an opportunity to introduce an amendment to require any school taking advantage of the tax exempt provision to fly the state flag. But Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, told the House on Wednesday that the amendment would not remain in the bill when it gets to a joint House-Senate conference committee. So on Thursday, Shirley, noting what Smith had said the day before, offered up the same amendment on a different bill dealing with bonds for colleges and universities. "If he's going to take it out, I'm going to offer it again so we have the House's position in it," Shirley said.
 
University state flag legislation dies, issue lives
Legislation passed Wednesday that would try to force the state's public universities to fly the state flag died Thursday. It died when House Ways and Means Chair Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, did not try to table a motion to reconsider the bill. The deadline to table the motion is Friday, and the House will not reconvene until Monday. While that legislation died, Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, promised to offer amendments to other legislation to try to force the public universities to fly the flag. As a matter of fact, Shirley offered the amendment Thursday to a bill providing bonds for university construction projects. But a point of order was raised that his amendment was not proper. House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, had not ruled on the point of order by the time the House adjourned Thursday. Currently none of the eight public universities fly the state flag, which incorporates the controversial Confederate battle emblem as part of its design.
 
Bill with state flag amendment to die
A bill the House attached an amendment to that would require public colleges and universities to fly the state flag will be killed. House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, said Thursday he was going to allow Senate Bill 2509 to die. The original language of Senate Bill 2509 exempted from taxes land leased to private entities on the campuses of Mississippi State University and University of Southern Mississippi to construct student housing. Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, proposed an amendment to a different bill on Thursday to force state supported colleges and universities to fly the flag. However, a question was raised whether such an amendment could be added to the bond bill. House Speaker Philip Gunn took the matter under advisement. He said later he would likely rule Monday. Gunn said Thursday he believes the emblem should be changed.
 
Senate unveils K-12 budget, raising questions on new formula
Senators moved Thursday to fund public schools for 2017-2018, intensifying the question of whether lawmakers will rewrite Mississippi's school funding formula in coming weeks. The Senate Appropriations Committee amended House Bill 1502 , restoring $2.24 billion to spend using the current Mississippi Adequate Education Program. That's the same amount lawmakers are spending this year. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, both Republicans, have said it's their top goal this session to replace that 20-year-old formula with a new plan. After the Senate committee acted Thursday, Gunn acknowledged that the formula may not be rewritten before the regular session ends.
 
Senate panel funds MAEP as stopgap
As legislative leaders continue to craft a new public schools funding formula behind closed doors, the Senate voted on Thursday to fund the old one. The new formula, which legislative leaders say is still planned to be finished before the new fiscal year begins on July 1, has not yet been finalized. The House banked on the new formula being ready when they passed the Department of Education's appropriations bill in mid-February. But the Senate Appropriations committee, handling that same House bill, voted to level-fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program at $2.2 billion in case a new formula cannot be developed before July. The bill will go to conference committee where leaders from both chambers will hammer out the details. Any new funding formula would have to be approved by a majority of both houses before becoming law.
 
Senate passes level MAEP funding
The Senate leadership broke with the House on Thursday and opted to fund kindergarten through 12th grade education in the regular session. The House, based on the recommendation of Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, was planning to wait for an anticipated special session to provide funds for the local school districts. Gunn had said it would make more sense to couple education funding to the ongoing effort by the House and Senate leadership to rewrite the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which is the mechanism that provides state funding to the local school districts. But on Thursday, the Senate leadership made it clear that it does not plan to wait for a special session to fund the local school districts for the upcoming school year. Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said the Senate leadership opted not to wait until a special session to fund MAEP because any rewrite "would have minimum impact" on the upcoming school year.
 
Leadership elusive about timeline for MAEP overhaul
With three weeks remaining in the legislative session and no new plan to pay for public education, the Senate Appropriations Committee went forward Thursday with level-funding under the state's current school funding formula. Questions abound in Mississippi's statehouse about the likelihood of an education funding rewrite this session. When the Legislature gaveled in, many expected school funding would be the top issue. The session is scheduled to end April 2, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, have been reticent on how close they are to revealing a proposal. "We're here almost in the middle of March (without it)," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale.
 
Mississippi House rolls out new roads, bridges funding plan
The Mississippi House is renewing efforts to pump money into transportation to address concerns that aging roads and bridges are hurting the state economy. Representatives voted 109-7 Thursday for a bill to borrow $50 million in bonds to pay for bridges, with half the money going to counties and half to cities. The bill would earmark tens of millions of dollars for roads and bridges from taxes that companies voluntarily collect for internet sales. Half the money would go to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, with cities and counties receiving 25 percent each. The state chamber of commerce, Mississippi Economic Council, has been pushing lawmakers to boost transportation spending. "The bill brings a solution for real and needed relief to the ever-growing problem of Mississippi's crumbling roads and bridges," Scott Waller, chief operating officer of MEC, said during a news conference Thursday at the Capitol.
 
Online sales tax for roads revived
The House brought back parts of a bill Thursday that proposes to use sales taxes collected from online purchases to fund road improvements in Mississippi. The original proposal gave local tax breaks for economic development projects totaling more than $60 million. Most of that legislation was removed and replaced with the text of failed House Bill 480, which supporters said directed the state tax collectors to collect a user fee on out-of-state Internet businesses. That money could then be earmarked to fix roads and bridges in the state, supporters said. The bill passed the House in February, but Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves killed it because he said that he believed the collections would be unconstitutional.
 
House leadership makes new effort to fund transportation
The House leadership has revived a plan, though more modest than the original, to divert a 7 percent tax on items sold by online retailers to a program to repair the state's roads and bridges. The legislation, passed 109-7 by the House on Thursday, would generate between $50 million and $70 million annually for what various groups are calling badly needed work on roads and bridges, both those maintained by the state and those maintained locally. The plan also would provide $50 million in bonds to pay for repairs to subpar local bridges. "This is not a perfect plan, but it is more than nothing," said House Ways and Means Vice Chairman Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia. Lamar and Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, amended a Senate bill dealing with income dividend tax from other states to include the internet tax collections and bond language.
 
House revives road, bridge bill
On Thursday, the House struck language from a Senate bill that would allow a fee-in-lieu of property taxes to pay for projects of more than $60 million and added its own language dealing with funding infrastructure improvements. The legislation would earmark $50 million in bonds and tax money voluntarily paid on online sales to infrastructure improvements. The House had a bill this year that died in the Senate to collect online sales tax and to use that money for infrastructure improvements. House Bill 480 would have forced companies to collect and remit a 7 percent "use tax" on online sales that supporters say by law the state should already be collecting. It would have generated an estimated $50 million to $150 million a year.
 
Legislature drops key part of motion picture rebate package
The bad news is that a key component in the Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive Program will fade to black after July 1. The good news is that the cash rebate on 25 percent of the salaries paid to nonresidents of Mississippi is the only part that was lost. Going into the current session of the Legislature, talk from the top was that, in a tight budgetary year, putting money into a "noncore" program was not prudent. A December 2015 study by the legislative Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, or PEER, found that taxpayer investment in the industry returned only 49 cents for every dollar spent. Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Phillip Gunn all cited that finding in taking their position.
 
C Spire gets favorable Supreme Court ruling
The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned a decision in 2006 by Hinds County Chancery Judge William Singletary that sealed a contract with BellSouth Telecommunications and the state for landline and Internet services and sent it back to the lower court. At issue is whether the Legislature in 2015 made the contract subject to the state's Open Records Act. At stake is whether competition for those services, now solely offered by BellSouth, should be allowed. Cellular South, doing business as C Spire, appealed the decision in 2015 so that it might compete for the business. The Legislature in 2015 amended the Public Records Act, which, C Spire argued, meant that the details of the agreement should be opened to the public. The Supreme Court agreed 8-1 on March 2, in an opinion written by Associate Justice Josiah D. Coleman. Associate Justice James D. Maxwell II wrote a dissenting opinion.
 
Process begins in Congress on 2018 Farm Bill
Current Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has announced the committee will begin hearings this year to set the stage for writing a new farm bill. The current farm bill doesn't expire until 2018, which gives the House and Senate time to work with the Trump Administration to set new farm bill policies, said Chris Gallegos, spokesman for Sen. Thad Cochran. "Senator Cochran is familiar with the risks associated with farming," Gallegos said. As work begins on a new farm bill, he will continue to support policies to help protect farmers in down times." Ag experts said the current farm bill could have been much worse for rice farmers had it not been for Cochran, who helped promote the idea of a price-based option.
 
Senators Wicker, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Promote Study Abroad
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Thursday introduced the bipartisan Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, which creates a competitive grant program for institutions of higher education to expand study abroad opportunities for American college students. Study abroad is an important component of a well-rounded post-secondary education, giving students the opportunity to engage with other cultures, enhance foreign language skills, and expand international knowledge through firsthand experience. "The study abroad experience allows young Americans to gain a better understanding of global issues and the global economy while spreading U.S. ideals overseas," Wicker said. "This sort of engagement is invaluable to increasing opportunities for future job growth. Working with people from different cultures builds international awareness and benefits students in ways that can make a lasting impact in today's society."
 
Republicans, including Haley Barbour, sign letter urging Trump not to cut AmeriCorps funding
A group of Republican donors and former elected officials is urging President Donald Trump not to cut funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps, the public service work program for young people. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is among the signatories of the letter sent to Trump, dated Tuesday, making a case for continued support for AmeriCorps and other such programs. "As Republicans, we support the critical goal of eliminating government waste," the authors wrote. "But as conservatives who believe in the unifying, patriotic values of national service, we urge you to support the Corporation for National and Community Service."
 
Engineers Say Tax Increase Needed To Save Failing U.S. Infrastructure
The nation's roads, bridges, airports, water and transit systems are in pretty bad shape, according to the civil engineers who plan and design such infrastructure. The new report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the infrastructure of the United States a D-plus. That nearly failing grade should boost President Trump's efforts to get a plan to invest up to $1 trillion in rebuilding everything from highways and bridges to tunnels and dams, even though the engineers' group is recommending something the president and his party are unlikely to support: a huge increase in the gasoline tax. ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith says the chronic failure to invest in infrastructure is a huge drain on the nation's economy, putting American jobs and lives at risk.
 
U.S. added 235,000 jobs in February; unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent
The U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs in February, according to government data released Friday, surpassing economists' expectations and likely clearing the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent, compared with 4.8 percent in January. Wages rose by 6 cents to $26.09, following a disappointingly low 3-cent increase the month before. "It's definitely a solid report," said Tara Sinclair, an economist at George Washington University. "This is the kind of number that the Federal Reserve was looking to receive before their meetings next week."
 
Chancellor addresses UM contextualization committee questions in letter
University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter released a letter Thursday clarifying several points about the work of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on History and Context. The letter explains how committee members were chosen, a topic that came up in Monday's listening session: "I am writing today to clarify misperceptions about the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on History and Context and its work. I refer everyone to my June 10, 2016 letter, which explains in detail the importance of the work, the progress made, and the committee's remaining work. Feedback on the letter was very positive. We have since been doing exactly what the letter laid out, and we will continue to do so."
 
U. of Mississippi Medical Center closing Jackson wellness centers
Budget cuts have led the University of Mississippi Medical Center to close two wellness centers in Jackson, administrators announced Thursday. University Wellness Center Downtown and University Wellness Center Northeast will close April 1, leaving open the remaining suburban locations. UMMC is coping with unanticipated cuts in patient care reimbursement and other budget reductions. Hospital leaders announced Feb. 22 that departments and units across the campus must identify ways to reduce expenses and/or increase revenue by a net $24 million by June 30. A combined 36 staff members at the two centers will remain on the job through March 31 and can apply for openings at the three remaining University Wellness Centers in Madison, Brandon and Flowood.
 
Fishing pros to offer scientific seminar for all ages at USM
All the tips needed to catch more redfish and speckled trout will be offered at a University of Southern Mississippi seminar, "Catch More Fish with Science," on March 23. The event at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is open to all ages and will feature scientists from USM's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory's Marine Education Center talking about what fish eat and when and what affects their movements and appetites. Experienced fishing guides will share hints and secrets to help any fisherman hook up with his favorite catch. "We're covering two of our most popular species in Hattiesburg -- redfish and speckled trout," said Anita Arguelles, marketing specialist with the Marine Education Center in Ocean Springs.
 
USM faculty member gets grant for Fresh Food on the Move
Charkarra Anderson-Lewis, Ph.D., was only 15 years old when her mother, 36, died from heart disease. It had a lasting impression on Anderson-Lewis, a University of Southern Mississippi Department of Health associate professor who recently received a $2,000 grant to institute a mobile produce market "Fresh Food on the Move Mississippi" program designed to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to people who might not have access to or being able to afford these healthy foods. "A lot of my passion for working in public health came from the experience of losing my mother when she was so young," Anderson-Lewis said.
 
Internalized Racism: Jackson State Prof On the Hunt for Solutions
The image can cause a double take. Students and faculty members sit in front of a large projection screen staring at pictures of Donald Trump and then a Black Lives Matter protest in the research lab of Jackson State University's political science department. Wires connect their fingers, foreheads and torsos to a device that looks like a polygraph, with a laptop recording every slight movement. Participants have no time to reflect: pictures pop up for a matter of seconds followed by a blank white screen. The process repeats for a few more minutes, and then the testing is finished. The results will show just how much unconscious biases inform how the subjects see events in the contemporary political scene. Byron D'Andra Orey, a JSU political science professor, conducts the experiments, which represent a burgeoning area of study known as "biopolitics," a field examining the intersection of biology and political behavior. The National Science Foundation provided $410,000 in grants to help the department study the physical effects of racially provocative material.
 
More mumps cases recorded around U. of Arkansas
Alabama Department of Public Health officials said Thursday that four more cases of mumps have been recorded since Feb. 24 around the University of Alabama campus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, mumps is a virus that can spread from person to person similar to the way a cold is transmitted through coughing, sneezing or talking. It can also spread indirectly when people with mumps touch surfaces without washing their hands, and then others touch those surfaces and proceed to rub their mouths or noses. Symptoms of mumps include low-grade fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen or tender salivary glands below the ear.
 
Texas A&M students, faculty gather, share testimony in protest of Senate Bill 6
The LGBTQ community of Texas A&M is concerned. On Wednesday, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs approved Senate Bill 6, what's become known as the "bathroom bill," to pass on for debate in the state Senate. If passed, the law would require transgender people to use the bathroom of their "biological sex," an idea that frightens many transgender students. On Thursday, students and faculty gathered at Rudder Plaza to protest the bill and stand in solidarity with transgender Texans. The event was organized by campus organization Transcend, which supports transgender students. About 50 people of varying ages, races, nationalities and genders gathered in front of Rudder Plaza to rally in support of their position. Many transgender students stood before the crowd of protesters and shared personal stories of how their lives have been affected by the way transgender people are treated.
 
College presidents see disconnect with public, worry about Washington
Higher education is widely misunderstood by the public, struggling to enroll sufficient numbers of students from low-income backgrounds and likely to face significant disruption in the flow of international students because of the Trump administration's policies, college presidents widely agree. But despite a tumultuous year in which many campuses have erupted with unrest and faced perilous financial pressures, most presidents perceive a positive racial climate on their campuses and are increasingly confident that their institutions are financially stable. Those are among the key findings of Inside Higher Ed's seventh annual Survey of College and University Presidents, published today on the eve of the annual meeting of the American Council on Education.
 
Obama Education Rules Are Swept Aside by Congress
With all the attention paid to President Trump's lightning-rod secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, and her advocacy for private school vouchers, little public notice has been paid to the action on education in Congress --- where lawmakers have broader power than Ms. DeVos to make changes to the nation's school system. Now, Congress has done exactly that, voting to repeal crucial regulations associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act, one of President Barack Obama's final legislative achievements. Beginning in the 1980s, moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans tended to agree that the federal government ought to hold local schools to tough standards, and monitor them closely to make sure they were shrinking achievement gaps between different groups of students. The ESSA repeal effort shows that center no longer holds.
 
As aid deadlines approach, automated IRS data retrieval unavailable to students
Six days after the Internal Revenue Service's data retrieval tool for the federal financial aid system went down, the Department of Education and IRS said Thursday they anticipate the tool will be unavailable for several more weeks. The ongoing issue is causing consternation among organizations that advocate for expanded college access, because it will make applying for financial aid more difficult for low-income students and could lead to more verification checks of aid applications. The joint statement from the agencies said the IRS decided to temporarily suspend the tool as a precautionary step because of concerns it could be misused by identity thieves.
 
Demand for Information About Harvard Gift Raises Thorny Issues
n building their fortunes, some wealthy donors acquire unwieldy baggage: far-flung companies, tumultuous business partnerships, and possibly lawsuits. But it's unusual for a court to order a donor's charitable beneficiary to help unpack that baggage. Harvard University fielded just such a demand late last month when a federal judge in Boston ordered it to provide testimony and documents showing how an alumnus and donor, Charles Spackman, sent the institution money. The request for bank-account and routing numbers and other private financial data, according to The New York Times and other news outlets, came as part of an attempt by an investor, Sang Cheol Woo, to collect on a judgment against Mr. Spackman in a South Korea court six years ago, in the wake of a business deal gone sour. As news of the case makes it way through fundraising circles, some experts say it underscores the need to carefully vet potential donors and be prepared to decline gifts when a donor's financial history could pose problems for a charity.
 
Flag, lottery increasing speaker's profile
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "As hard as it is for rabid legislative/Capitol watchers to believe, there are Mississippians who do not know who is the speaker of the House. But, alas, it is true there are Mississippians who do not know Philip Gunn is speaker. That is not a negative reflection on the second-term Republican speaker. There are people -- many people -- who do not follow the Mississippi Legislature, and the activities within the ornate Capitol. Most legislators are even less well known statewide than Gunn. ...Gunn, a Jackson attorney who resides in Clinton, is becoming more well known because of his association with two issues that engender significant interest and in some instances emotions in Mississippi."


SPORTS
 
Spring practice: Mississippi State continues to adjust on defense
When word got to Leo Lewis, he stopped to do some research. From what Lewis heard, Todd Grantham was going to be the Mississippi State football team's new defensive coordinator. Lewis, a linebacker, had a natural curiosity about Grantham and what scheme he planned to bring to Starkville. He liked what he found. "He gets after the quarterback and the secondary makes plays, and we needed that," Lewis said. By all accounts, all involved in MSU's defense have liked the first stages of learning Grantham's style of play. The Bulldogs are only three practices deep into the spring, but the reviews have been positive. "I really feel confident about it. Everybody's in one place, everybody's on the same page," Lewis said. "I think things are going pretty well."
 
New Mississippi State safeties coach Ron English stressing effort
In his first practices as Mississippi State's safeties coach, Ron English has been understanding as he installs his schemes and the Bulldogs learn his processes. The adaptation is the latest step MSU players are going through after Todd Grantham replaced Peter Sirmon as defensive coordinator in the offseason. Even though MSU has changed from Geoff Collins to Manny Diaz to Sirmon to Grantham in recent years, English isn't allowing the Bulldogs to use that as an excuse. In fact, the former head coach and defensive coordinator said the Bulldogs' effort has to improve. "What I told them after practice was our effort's not even close to where it needs to be," English said. "We need to finish plays better. We need to get to the ball better." In between, English said the intensity of the practices might be affecting the players' effort.
 
No. 6 Aggie softball team set to open SEC play this weekend against Mississippi State
The sixth-ranked Texas A&M softball team did enough during nonconference play to put itself in great position to earn a national seed for the NCAA tournament, but now comes the acid test, the Southeastern Conference which has 10 of its 13 teams in the Top 25. The Aggies (19-3) will open SEC play with a three-game series against Mississippi State (19-3), starting at 6 p.m. Friday at the Aggie Softball Complex. With a veteran lineup and a deep pitching staff, A&M is looking for its first winning record in the conference since joining in 2013. "I think we're athletic. We've got depth. We've got some options on the mound," A&M head coach Jo Evans said.
 
Mississippi State's Vivians, William earn more All-SEC honors
Mississippi State junior guards Victoria Vivians and Morgan William were each selected to the Associated Press All-SEC team. Vivians earned a spot on the first team for the second straight season, while William was added to the second team. Both players were picked to those respective teams by the league's coaches last week. Vivians led the Bulldogs averaging 16.4 points per game, which was seventh in the conference, while William scored 10.6 points and dished out 4.6 assists. South Carolina's A'ja Wilson was picked as SEC Player of the Year while Alabama's Jordan Lewis was named Newcomer of the Year. Robin Pingeton of Missouri was selected as the SEC Coach of the Year.
 
New Southern Miss AD has football scheduling as a priority
Recruiting is the single-most important concern in college athletics. For everyone. Bar none. Athletic directors, administrators, coaches -- everyone. Ask them -- they'll vouch for it. Often referred to as the lifeblood of any collegiate sport, recruiting can make or break a program. That's especially so for football, the driving force behind a successful athletic department. If recruiting is No. 1 at the top of the list, though, scheduling is likely 1A. That's how new Southern Miss athletic director Jon Gilbert looks at it. "Scheduling is like shaving," he said. "If you don't keep on top of it, you could look up in a few days and have this beard that's a little out of control."
 
What's the deal for Ed Orgeron? 5-year LSU contract laden with incentives
Ed Orgeron's contract with LSU includes more than $1.5 million in possible incentive bonuses -- nearly double former coach Les Miles' package -- and a $12 million buyout this year. Orgeron will make $3.5 million a year as part of a five-year contract, details The Advocate reported on the day he was named permanent coach. The school confirmed those numbers in documents released Thursday. The coach's contract is expected to be approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors next Friday. Miles, fired Sept. 25, made $4.3 million a year, and the school owes him a buyout of more than $9 million --- paid in monthly installments over six years. The program saved $800,000 with Orgeron's salary, funds the school used on coordinators Dave Aranda and Matt Canada. The duo is set to make a combined $3.3 million this year, believed to be more than any other coordinator duo in college football.
 
U. of Missouri, Kim Anderson finalize buyout agreement
The University of Missouri and men's basketball Coach Kim Anderson have come to terms on a buyout agreement that will pay Anderson $950,000 for the termination of his contract. The terms of the agreement were made public Thursday evening. The school will pay Anderson a lump sum of $450,000 for "liquidated damages" and $200,000 for "meeting or exceeding the academic accomplishment and social responsibilities established by the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for 2016-17." In addition, MU will pay the $300,000 that was deposited into a school-controlled annuity fund that was set up when Anderson was hired in April 2014. Anderson earned $100,000 in annuity for every year on the job. Anderson still has two years remaining on his original contract, which paid him $1.1 million annually. That was lowest for any coach in the Southeastern Conference.



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