Thursday, March 16, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Effort to force universities to fly state flag ends
State Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, strolled to the well of the House Wednesday, silently held up a state flag and a white flag of surrender and then retreated to his desk in the back of the chamber. With that, the great flag debate of the 2017 session appears to be over, although the issue will surely return in future sessions. Over the last several days, Shirley had tried multiple times to amend legislation to force Mississippi's eight public universities to fly the state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem as part of its design. After the session Wednesday, Shirley refused to talk to reporters.
Surrender in state flag battle?
Rep. William Shirley spent most of Wednesday standing and pacing near his desk. Shirley, a Quitman Republican, had asked Speaker Philip Gunn for a point of personal privilege, which lawmakers use to speak about issues that are important to them. In recent weeks, Shirley has made several attempts to require colleges and universities to fly the state flag. All of the state's public four-year schools have stopped flying the flag because it bears a Confederate emblem that many Mississippians find offensive. When Shirley finally took to the well, the podium where legislators address the entire House of Representatives, he said nothing. Instead, he pulled two small flags from his jacket pocket -- a Mississippi state flag and a white flag, the traditional symbol for surrender. He waved the flags and walked away from the podium.
Fantasy sports bill signed into law
Legislation regulating and taxing fantasy sports operators doing business in the state has been signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant with some hoping it will generate a slight bump in the state's budget. The legislation, which passed through the Legislature with limited opposition, will place an 8 percent tax on fantasy sports companies' earnings from Mississippians. Fantasy sports is generally played online where individuals compose teams from real sports leagues. Participants pay to play and have an opportunity to win based on the performance of the teams they compile. House Gaming Chair Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, said he does not expect fantasy sports to generate a lot of revenue for the cash-strapped state coffers, but said, "I think it will grow."
Facing major cuts, Health Department will have to 're-brand'
Facing more reductions in state spending that health advocates say amount to more than 47 percent for the Department of Health, some lawmakers say the agency will have to "re-brand" itself and operate more like it did in the 1900s than the 21st century. A budget draft as lawmakers enter the final haggling to set a state budget for the coming fiscal year shows the Health Department's state general funds being cut from $36 million to $27.8 million, about a 23 percent cut. But in prior years, the Health Department provided millions of dollars in "flow through" money to hospitals for trauma care from special fees. Last year, lawmakers "swept" many special fees and funds into the state general fund. The current draft of the Health Department budget shows nearly $9 million of its state general fund budget earmarked for trauma care payments to hospitals, bringing its true cut in state general funds to more than 47 percent.
Lower oil, gas prices brake 2017 energy legislation
There were few energy and public utilities bills discussed during this year's Mississippi legislative session, and lawmakers who lead committees on those industries say it's likely because oil and gas prices have been relatively low. Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, and Rep. Charles Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, spoke Wednesday morning at the Mississippi Economic Council's Legislative Scrambler reflecting on energy-related bills from this past session and what the Legislature could look forward to the next year in the industry. Overall, both lawmakers said less activity in the House and Senate is a result of less oil and gas activity and production in the state. This has its own positive and negative effects on the state when it comes to jobs, commerce and tax revenue, such as lower gas prices but less jobs available in the sector.
Governor Nominates GOP Lawmaker Mark Formby for Workers Comp Commission
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is nominating a longtime Republican lawmaker to serve on the three-member Workers Compensation Commission. Rep. Mark Formby of Picayune has served in the House since 1993. If the 60-year-old is confirmed to the commission, he would resign the District 108 House seat and Bryant would set a special election to represent the Pearl River County district. Formby graduated from Mississippi State University in 1979 and has worked for family retail businesses and in real estate. He also worked on the Washington staff of then-U.S. Sen. Trent Lott from 1987 to 1991.
Dyslexia, compulsory school age bills sent to conference
The House on Wednesday sent three education bills, including the much-debated dyslexia scholarship expansion bill, to conference for further negotiating. Legislation goes to conference committees when a bill is returned by either house to the other with amendments, and the house where the bill originated does not agree with the changes. A conference committee is made up of three members from both the Senate and House, appointed by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn respectively, who attempt to come to a resolution. Separate conferees are set for each bill. The conference committees have until March 27 to file conference reports on general bills, which would then require approval of both chambers to become law.
Hewes to Gaming Commission: 'Do not be swayed' on two casino sites
After a month to study the documents, the Mississippi Gaming Commission members are expected to rule Thursday on two potential casino sites in South Mississippi. The March meeting of the Gaming Commission was moved from Jackson to Hard Rock Casino Biloxi and will begin at 9 a.m. "Do not be swayed by old assertions, which have been tested and found lacking," Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said in a letter to the Gaming Commission, which will rule on the applications for site approval in Biloxi and Diamondhead. "Your predecessors showed great foresight and have left you on solid footing with grounds for rejection of what otherwise would be a violation of precedent."
Cochran, Wicker again introduce Medgar Evers House Study Act
Mississippi senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker Wednesday re-introduced a measure that could lead to the home of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers being added to the National Park Service. The legislation would authorize a study for that purpose. It was approved in committee in 2016 but was not considered by the full Senate before the end of the 114th Congress. "We are committed to securing congressional authorization for the National Park Service to confirm the importance of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers home in the history of the American civil rights movement," Cochran said. The Senate bill would authorize a special resource study to evaluate the national significance of the Jackson home where Medgar Evers, a World War II veteran and civil rights leader, was murdered in June 1963. Evers was also a Newton County native.
Senators announce legislation to promote computer science programs in schools
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., have introduced the Computer Science Career Education Act, bipartisan legislation that would promote learning opportunities in computer science for underrepresented students, in order to create more opportunities in fields that demand high-tech skills training. With a projected 1.3 million job openings in computing occupations and with women, minority, rural, and low-income students underrepresented in STEM and computer-related careers, Senators Gillibrand and Wicker introduced the Computer Science Career Education Act in order to create a pipeline of education and work-based opportunities in computer science that can open doors for students into careers in computer science fields. "In too many classrooms across America, our students do not have access to a computer science education," said Senator Wicker.
Trump Budget Slashes Nondefense Spending to Boost Pentagon
President Donald Trump on Thursday unveiled the first portion of his fiscal 2018 budget request, a discretionary spending plan that includes new funds for a major military buildup and severe cuts to federal agencies certain to be strongly resisted by lawmakers on both sides. Among the hardest hit agencies under Trump's "skinny" budget proposal are the State Department and EPA, which would see a 28 percent and 31 percent reduction from enacted levels, respectively. Spending is also slashed at the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Labor, among others. Parts of the document have already been declared "dead on arrival" by lawmakers on both sides, a phrase often applied to presidents' budget requests. It's ultimately up to Congress to decide how to spend taxpayer dollars.
Trump federal budget 2018: Massive cuts to the arts, science and the poor
resident Trump on Thursday will unveil a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America's allies abroad. The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II, probably leading to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce, something White House officials said was one of their goals. "The administration's budget isn't going to be the budget," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "We do the budget here. The administration makes recommendations, but Congress does budgets."
NASA gets slight cut to $19.1 billion in proposed Trump 2018 budget
NASA would get $19.1 billion to spend in fiscal year 2018 under a Trump White House budget outline released today. That's a relatively small cut from the $19.3 billion it received this year. The White House budget request supports another year of development for the Space Launch System (SLS) being managed at Alabama's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. It allocates the new deep space rocket and the Orion space capsule $3.7 billion. As expected, the budget cuts NASA spending for programs that study the Earth but not as much perhaps as supporters feared. What the president would eliminate in current NASA spending is the entire NASA education office. That office runs camps and supports internships and outreach to boost the number of women and minorities in STEM fields.
Trump budget proposes 13 percent cut to Transportation Department
The Department of Transportation faces a $2.4 billion cut under President Trump's proposed federal budget blueprint -- a surprising figure given Trump's pledges to improve U.S. infrastructure. The department's funding would be cut by 13 percent to $16.2 billion, according to the proposal. The budget limits funding for the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment program and eliminates funding for the Essential Air Service program. It also gets rid of funding for the TIGER discretionary grant program, which was created by former President Obama's economic stimulus in 2009. rump vowed as a candidate and after winning the White House to improve the nation's infrastructure, calling for repairing U.S. roads, bridges and airports.
Why GOP plan's 'historic' reform of Medicaid has many worried
The Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is not just about doing away with Obamacare. It's also about the biggest entitlement reform in decades -- a "historic" change, as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin describes it. Of the federal government's three big entitlement programs, the two most familiar to the public are the ones focused on seniors: Social Security, which provides retirement income, and Medicare, which provides medical help. The Republican bill would dramatically affect the third one, Medicaid -- the federal-state health care program for the poor. Under the GOP bill, states will lose a huge influx of federal Medicaid dollars -- $880 billion over the next decade, essentially a 25 percent cut, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. "This is a colossal shift of cost and responsibility from the federal government to the states. It's seismic," says Daniel Dersken, director of the Center for Rural Health at the University of Arizona.
U. of Mississippi Medical Center: Suburban wellness centers more viable
Scrambling to address a $24 million shortfall before July, University of Mississippi Medical Center officials chose to close their two Jackson wellness centers in favor of keeping open the wellness centers in the suburbs. UMMC officials explained Wednesday that the suburban centers "have the best prospects for long-term viability." On April 1, UMMC will shut down the University Wellness Center Downtown and University Wellness Center Northeast. Kevin Cook, chief executive officer of UMMC's health system, has said he regretted having to close the locations, "but our need to improve our finances leaves us little choice." UMMC officials are facing an unexpected $35 million reduction in Medicaid funding, which came after state lawmakers had already sliced $8.2 million from the budget of the medical center --- a $1.6 billion operation that employs more than 10,000 people.
High school offers college to produce more graduates
A high school here is giving its students a chance to earn college credits towards an associates degree. Coahoma Agricultural High School now offers an Early College Program, which gives students the opportunity to earn 30 plus college credits towards a baccalaureate degree or earn an Associates degree from Coahoma Community College while obtaining their high school diploma. Qualified students can begin taking college courses as early as the 9th grade, said Assistant Principal Cloretha Jamison, director of the Early College Program. Although the high school is in its pilot stage of the program, it will become a full-fledged early college high school next year.
Starkville Student Wins Mississippi Spelling Bee
Contestant: "Spiracle. S-p-i-r-a-c-l-e Spiracle." Judge: "That is correct." That's Soyeon Park of Starkville spelling the winning word in the Mississippi Spelling Bee. The 6th grade Armstrong Middle School student won after 39 rounds. Spiracle, by the way, means one of the breathing pores that's usually in 10 pairs on the thorax and abdomen on an insect. With this word, Park advances to the 90th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. "I'm surprised because I wasn't expecting to get first place but I'm kind of happy and I don't really know how I'm feeling because I'm on adrenaline right now," she said. For winning, Park receives a trip to D.C. for herself and one parent. This will be Park's second time competing nationally. She says she has already begun studying for the national bee and hopes to beat her personal best.
With Alabama students on break, work begins on second phase of University Boulevard improvements
With students away from the University of Alabama campus for spring break, construction has begun on the latest phase of work to repave the eastern end of University Boulevard. The half-mile stretch from the Paul W. Bryant Drive intersection west toward the Anna Avenue intersection will partially close through Aug. 4 for work that includes replacing concrete slabs with asphalt and adding medians, landscaping, a transit lane, a bike lane and making lighting improvements. The UA board of trustees approved an amended budget and scope for the phase in February, increasing the cost of the project by $2 million for the addition of a connector road between BBVA Compass Bank and the nursing college that will link University Boulevard and Johnny Stallings Drive.
Auburn University student diagnosed with mumps
An Auburn University student has been diagnosed with a case of the mumps. The university announced that it had received notification of a student with a confirmed case of the mumps. The student does not live on campus and is currently out of state at his parent's home. The Alabama Department of Public Health and the university is working to determine when the student was contagious and what classes the student takes. Seven cases of mumps have been confirmed at the University of Alabama since February, according to the Associated Press. This is the first case of confirmed mumps at Auburn University this year. The risk of mumps can be prevented with two doses of measles, mumps, rubella vaccines, which most people get as children, according to the Auburn University email notification.
Sea Grant researchers: Yoga pants, cozy clothes may be key source of sea pollution
Comfortable clothes are emerging as a source of plastic that's increasingly ending up in the oceans and potentially contaminating seafood, according to Gulf Coast researchers launching a two-year study of microscopic plastics in the waters from south Texas to the Florida Keys. The project, led by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, will rely partly on volunteers in coastal cleanup events. It also will expand a year's worth of data collected around Florida that predominantly found microfibers -- shreds of plastic even smaller than microbeads flowing down bathroom sinks and shower drains. "Anything that's nylon or polyester, like the fleece-type jackets," University of Florida researcher Maia McGuire said. The Gulf Coast study will use McGuire's methodology to determine the prevalence of microfibers and other microscopic plastics.
U. of Tennessee aims for big apartment project on campus for Memphis Medical District
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center plans to attract a major apartment complex alongside its campus near Downtown. The university has asked developers for proposals on how 10 acres can be redeveloped for housing and possibly shops and stores in the Memphis Medical District, a two-mile-long area of 8,000 students and 17,000 employees who chiefly commute to the district's schools and hospitals. It marks the fourth major redevelopment announced near Downtown including the proposed $210 million South City residential and commercial project, the $300 million expansion starting at Methodist University Hospital and the $1.2 billion expansion under way at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. UT is also completing a $450 million upgrade of its campus and, nearby, LeBonheur has finished a recent $340-million children's hospital expansion.
After House setback, U. of South Carolina takes bid for $50 million for med school to SC Senate
The University of South Carolina has not given up on its request for $50 million request from state lawmakers for a new medical school campus in downtown Columbia. But a powerful Republican state senator says the school's latest push to bankroll its top legislative priority through a borrowing proposal likely will fall short. A week after House budget writers said they would provide no money for the project in the state's first bond bill since 2001, USC president Harris Pastides on Wednesday took his case to the S.C. Legislature's upper chamber. "This will be a health-science complex like Harvard has," Pastides said, asking senators for a "very large bond bill." While the House envisions borrowing $450 million, Pastides urged senators to borrow twice that amount -- $900 million.
U. of Missouri chancellor, chief budget officer paint bleak fiscal crisis
Specific ways to address MU's $20 million shortfall by June 30 include using $3 million of University Hospital reserves, MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said Wednesday. Last week, Foley announced that MU will use reserve funds from across campus to make up the state withholding. At a general faculty meeting Wednesday, Foley said that on Thursday, division and academic unit leaders will learn how much money they will have to make up in their current budget. He said $17 million represents 2.3 percent of the MU's total reserves. That money is spread widely across campus. Vice Chancellor of Finance Rhonda Gibler said it will be painful. "There is no way to address the kinds of concerns we have ahead of us," she said. Gibler said MU's general budget is 80 percent employee salary, which is what makes the cuts so difficult.
U. of Missouri to conduct 24-hour donation campaign
The University of Missouri will conduct a 24-hour campaign to encourage giving that includes competition among schools and a contest for social media participation. Called Mizzou Giving Day, the event begins at noon today and continues until noon Thursday, MU said in a news release. Challenge gifts already in hand will reward the five schools with the largest fundraising totals with extra money and five social media challenge winners will be able to direct $900 to the school, college or program of their choice. "In the current economic climate, private support for Mizzou has never been more important," Todd McCubbin, executive director of the Mizzou Alumni Association, said in the release. "The last 15 months have seen unprecedented change at MU and valuable discussion about our purpose and potential."
Faculty, students weigh making U. of Missouri a 'sanctuary campus'
University of Missouri students, staff and faculty brainstormed ways for MU to become a sanctuary campus with community members Wednesday. The Coalition of Graduate Workers, a union that represents graduate students at MU, is considering a list of demands that would ask MU to protect undocumented students and immigrants from federal agents, unless those agents had a warrant. "We know that there are students affected by a host of other issues being debated and threatened," said Eric Scott, the union's co-chair. "We have students who are DREAMers, who are affected by DACA, and there are indiscriminate raids being conducted on people who are undocumented." MU has not officially considered becoming a sanctuary campus, a label about 30 other universities have claimed in recent months. Missouri has also made it illegal for a city or county to claim sanctuary status, according to a 2008 law.
Federal Judge Blocks Trump's Second Effort at Travel Ban
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the White House's second effort to impose a travel ban that colleges have said would damage their appeal to international students and scholars but that President Trump has defended as necessary to protect the nation from terrorism. In a 43-page ruling, Judge Derrick K. Watson of the U.S. District Court in Honolulu granted a request to issue a temporary restraining order, effective nationally, to prevent the new travel-ban policy from being carried out. The new travel ban, issued last week, was described by the Trump administration as more limited, and therefore more likely to pass legal muster, than the original one, which had been blocked by federal courts. But colleges and universities said it would bring them little assurance that their current students and scholars from abroad would find it easy to visit their homes, attend conferences, or conduct research outside the United States.
Trump seeks deep cuts in education and science programs
The Trump administration today unveiled its "America First" budget -- a plan that would make deep cuts to some student aid programs and science agencies on which colleges, their students and their researchers depend. In the U.S. Department of Education, the budget pledges level funding for Pell Grants, the primary federal program to support low-income students. Funding for historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions would remain at current levels under the budget. The Trump administration has pledged to provide help for historically black colleges, and some leaders of HBCUs have been hoping for increases. But the budget plan says work-study would be cut "significantly." Some programs are slated for complete elimination, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Community and Public Service, which runs AmeriCorps.
Trump Budget Would Make Massive Cuts to Education Department, But Boost School Choice
President Donald Trump's first budget seeks to slash the Education Department's roughly $68 billion budget by $9 billion, or 13 percent in the coming fiscal year, whacking popular programs that help districts offer after-school programs, and hire and train teachers. At the same time, it seeks a historic $1.4 billlon federal investment in school choice, including new money for private school vouchers and charter schools, as well as directing $1 billion to follow students to the school of their choice. But the proposal would completely scrap two big programs Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, or Title II, which is currently funded at $2.25 billion and helps states and districts hire and provide professional development for teachers. The budget proposal would also get rid of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which is funded at more than $1 billion currently and finances after-school and extended-learning programs.
U. of Memphis student carjacked in campus parking lot
Memphis police are searching for armed suspects who carjacked a University of Memphis student on campus Wednesday night. Police responded to the carjacking call shortly before 9 p.m. in the student parking lot at 3696 Southern Ave. The victim told police that he was sitting in his 2016 Toyota Corolla when three men armed with guns and a rifle approached his car. He said one of the suspects opened the unlocked driver's door and said, "Where is the money?" The victim was forced out of the car and handed over his wallet and cell phone. He told police that the suspects threw the phone and his backpack on the ground and fled in his car.
Legislators following path on budget issue
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "This time of year it might be more accurate to say the lemmings are in session rather than saying legislators are in session. Lemmings, of course, are cold-weather living rodents that have come to symbolize the inability of people to think for themselves. When it comes to putting together a state budget, members of the Mississippi Legislature have little opportunity to think for themselves. As the more than 100 bills that fund state government work their way through the process, legislators will ask questions, complain about the funding levels for programs and even offer a few amendments to change those funding levels. But in reality, the budget put forth by the leadership is basically what legislators will agree to and pass. Options for the rank-and-file legislator are limited."
Judicial patronage conflict remembered
Jackson-based consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge E. Grady Jolly notified President Donald Trump on March 1 that he will vacate his seat as an active judge, effective October 3, his eightieth birthday. Jolly wrote, 'This advanced notice is provided in accordance with the custom of allowing you, with the advice and consent of the Senate, ample time to name my successor. I shall continue to sit in service to the court as a Senior Judge, so long as health and will continues.' Jolly knows a bit about 'the advice and consent of the Senate.' His selection tested the tradition of the Senate's role as a partner with the President in judicial appointments during a new era of Republican power in Mississippi."
History shows Cochran will guide choice of Jolly's 5th Circuit successor
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Longtime U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge E. Grady Jolly recently informed President Donald Trump of his intent to step down from the federal bench on Jolly's 80th birthday in October -- giving Trump his first judicial appointment in Mississippi. ...Jolly's decision to step down sets in motion the same sort of judicial patronage process that was in place back in 1981 when Jolly was first approached about the judgeship by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran after Coleman announced his retirement decision on January 29, 1981. ...President Trump's administration has been anything but traditional and some suggest that his judicial appointment process may likewise eschew tradition. But is the U.S. Senate likely to surrender either their constitutional 'advice and consent' or their senatorial courtesies on judicial appointments to Trump? No. Neither will Cochran and fellow Mississippi GOP U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker."

Starkville recognizes Mississippi State women's basketball team
The women's basketball team at Mississippi State University has received some special recognition from Starkville. Mayor Parker Wiseman showed up after the team's practice at Humphrey Coliseum Wednesday to present a proclamation making March 17-19 MSU Women's Basketball Team Weekend. The Lady Bulldogs will take on Troy in the first round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Friday at 1:30 p.m. The winner will face the winner of the DePaul-Northern Iowa game Sunday. With victories there, MSU would advance to the Oklahoma City Regional the following weekend. Wins there would advance the team to the Women's Final Four in Dallas.
Mississippi State's Vic Schaefer selected as Naismith Coach of the Year finalist
Mississippi State's Vic Schaefer was selected as one of four finalists for the Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year. Schaefer is joined by Texas' Karen Aston, Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and Oregon State's Scott Rueck. It is Schaefer's first time as a finalist for the award after finishing as a semifinalist in 2014-15. Schaefer has led the Bulldogs to a 29-4 record so far on the year and finished as the SEC runner-up in both the regular season and conference tournament. MSU will enter the NCAA Tournament for a school-record third straight season as the No. 2 seed hosting Troy on Friday.
It's madness, but Bailey Howell never played in NCAAs
Mississippi syndicated sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: "We call it March Madness. For a couple weeks, the NCAA Tournament takes over our TVs, our sports sections and our office talk. ...We probably take March Madness a little bit for granted these days, but we should not -- especially in Mississippi. That's because, for the longest time, Mississippi, in its extremely finite wisdom, chose not to take part. And so it is that the greatest basketball player in Mississippi history never played in March Madness. 'It was the biggest disappointment of my basketball career,' Bailey Howell once told me. 'I was never so disappointed. In America, no matter what you do, you have the opportunity to go as far as you can go and be whatever you can be. We were denied that opportunity.'"
Looney Toons: Former Bulldogs' center returns to sideline
Five years ago, D.J. Looney left Mississippi State as a graduate assistant to set out on a coaching journey of his own. The former center for the Bulldogs made stops at East Mississippi Community College, Central Arkansas and Georgia before getting an opportunity to return to his alma mater last month as tight ends coach. "That was the end-all goal," Looney said. "For it to happen so soon, it's been really neat." The 28-year old takes over the role previously held by Scott Sallach. Although Sallach remains a part of Dan Mullen's staff as director of player personnel, Looney wants to make his own evaluations of the six tight ends he has this spring.
For Mississippi State's Brandon Bryant, the next step is the right one
When Brandon Bryant walked into a barbershop in Tunica with his cousin one day before the start of last season, an older man hailed the Mississippi State safety as "Big Money." Bryant was about to make millions of dollars, the older man said at the time, as Bryant's cousin Kieundrae Bond remembers. Bryant was NFL-ready, the older man continued. If Bryant were to soon leave for the draft, he'd be set for life, the older man went on. Expectations. Bryant was constantly reminded of them -- and especially by members of his hometown -- heading into last season. After making 63 tackles, six pass deflections and three interceptions as a redshirt freshman in 2015, that is what happens. The thing is, though, that in Tunica, a rural town with a population of 981 located near Memphis, expectations come with a catch, residents say.
U. of Missouri hires Cuonzo Martin as next men's basketball coach
Missouri basketball has moved into the Cuonzo Martin era. The school announced Wednesday it was hiring the former California coach, making him the 19th coach in program history. Martin will be introduced on campus at 4 p.m. Monday. "We are thrilled that Cuonzo is returning to the Midwest and that his family will now call Columbia home," MU Athletic Director Jim Sterk said in a press release. The 45-year old Martin will take over for Kim Anderson, who was fired after going 27-68 in three seasons at the helm. ESPN's Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello reported that Missouri will give Martin a seven-year deal worth more than $21 million. An MU spokesperson said the school will make his contract details public Monday. Martin has coached at California since 2015.
NCAA Tournament: South Carolina Ends One Controversy and Exploits Its Neighbor's
The Confederate battle flag is no longer flying at the State Capitol in Columbia, so for the first time in 15 years, banners welcoming the N.C.A.A. men's basketball tournament are hanging from light posts in this city in the foothills of the Appalachians. Since 2002, the N.C.A.A. has kept its championships out of states flying the flag. When the South Carolina Legislature passed a bill in 2015 ending the flag's display on the statehouse grounds, that restriction was lifted. The timing proved fortuitous when, a year later, the N.C.A.A. imposed a similar championship ban on neighboring North Carolina because of a contentious law seen by its critics as anti-gay. Just like that, tournament games set to be held in Greensboro, N.C., this week needed a new home. Greenville was happy to step in.

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