Wednesday, March 22, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
MSU-Meridian Riley campus adding outdoor space
The MSU-Meridian Riley Campus in downtown is almost complete. To finish off the block, construction of a new plaza and outdoor facility is taking shape at the corner of 5th Street and 23rd Avenue. "Meridian is a Mississippi State town and we find a lot of support here and I think this a good addition to downtown and I certainly think it will brand the university here," explained Terry Dale Cruse, Administration Director and Head of Campus at MSU-Meridian. Once completed this summer, the outdoor learning and social plaza will open up a new venue for the school to explore. "We are just excited to literally paint the block maroon and white and make a name for Mississippi State in Meridian," said Cruse. West Alabama economic development effort: Highway 17 project
 
Voter registration deadline approaching for municipal primary elections
Roughly two weeks remain to register to vote in approaching municipal primary elections. Voter registration for the primaries will remain open until noon April 1, according to the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office. Municipal clerks' offices will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on April 1 to accept in-person voter applications. In order to vote in the municipal elections, a person must be at least 18 by the June 6 general election. Voters who are already registered to vote in Mississippi but have moved or changed their name since the last election can update their information at the "Y'all Vote" page -- www.yallvote.sos.ms.gov -- on the Secretary of State's website.
 
Lawyers, adviser crafting RFP for Oktibbeha's hospital
Oktibbeha County is close to seeking offers for OCH Regional Medical Center after supervisors authorized Butler Snow attorneys and hospital consultant Ted Woodrell on Monday to draft a request for proposals for the publicly owned health care facility. Monday's action does not formally start the RFP process, as a majority of board members must still approve a resolution of intent to sell the hospital and release the finished document. It is unknown at this point if the OCH Board of Trustees will provide input for the RFP's language or possible safeguards. Woodrell said he reached out to the group after supervisors extended his consultation contract and hired Butler Snow as legal counsel in February, but trustees declined his overture. "Regardless, we will be reaching out again for their input. That door is never going to be closed," said Butler Snow attorney Sam Keyes.
 
Starkville aldermen sending potential case against former officer to DA's office
An hour-long, closed-door executive session concluded Tuesday with Starkville aldermen voting to discipline Starkville Police Department Officer Drew Jones and tender a potential case against former Officer William Thrasher to the district attorney for possible prosecution. Few details are known about the incident or incidents that led to the board's actions, as numerous elected officials and city employees declined to comment on the personnel matter and possible legal action. Mayor Parker Wiseman confirmed Thrasher resigned last week and said no formal criminal charges have been filed against the former SPD employee.
 
Victor Collins retiring as Oktibbeha County's road manager
Oktibbeha County Road Manager Victor Collins will conclude a 30-year career with the county when he retires at the end of the month. Supervisors accepted Collins' notice of retirement Monday and voted to advertise the upcoming job vacancy. Those actions came after the board spent more than two hours in executive session with Collins and numerous road workers. District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the board could identify finalists for the position and hire someone by May. Supervisors could also name an interim road manager in the coming weeks, but Trainer said that action might not be necessary as County Administrator Emily Garrard will handle many of the position's administrative duties.
 
Bird flu confirmed poultry flocks in Alabama near Mississippi line
Alabama officials have confirmed bird flu in two poultry flocks, just a week after three commercial breeders had to kill their chickens across the state line in Tennessee. The state veterinarian announced that chickens are under quarantine after testing positive for the disease at a commercial breeding operation in Pickens County near the Mississippi line. Agriculture officials say this strain of avian flu poses no risk to humans and has not entered the food chain. The Alabama Poultry and Egg Association says poultry is Alabama's largest agriculture sector, generating about $15 billion in annual revenues and employing more than 86,000 people.
 
Mississippi Hills awards $117,000 in grants
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area Alliance on Tuesday awarded another 15 grants totaling more than $117,000 to organizations and events that contribute to the MHNHAA's mission of preserving, enhancing, promoting and interpreting the culture and heritage resources of the region. Grant amounts ranged from $1,130 to $20,000 covering four major themes: African-American heritage, Civil War, Native American heritage and music and literature. Eighteen applications were reviewed for this second round of grants. The first grants were awarded a year ago, totaling more than $100,000.
 
Casino revenue falls sharply across Mississippi in February
Gamblers stayed away from Mississippi casinos in February, sending revenue tumbling 10 percent compared with the same month in 2016. State Revenue Department figures show gamblers lost $172 million last month, compared to $190 million in February 2016. The 12 coastal casinos posted revenue of $95 million, down 9 percent from $105 million in February 2016. It was the second-sharpest monthly revenue drop in four years on the Gulf Coast, a period when revenues have generally risen.
 
Not there yet: Education funding rewrite 'matter of timing'
The House and Senate adjourned before noon Tuesday -- 11 days before they're scheduled to go home -- with no information on the timeline of an education funding rewrite, which was expected to be the biggest issue of the session. The 2017 session is scheduled to end April 2, but no new proposal to pay for education has been rolled out. That could mean lawmakers would be working against the clock, if they proceed with efforts to vote before going home on a new plan to pay for education in the state. House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, has previously said there's a possibility they could come back shortly after the regular session ends to address the matter. "Everything depends on timing," said Gunn's chief of staff, Nathan Wells. Gov. Phil Bryant has said he would call a special session once lawmakers have reached a consensus on a new formula.
 
Anti-sanctuary cities bill heads to governor
Cities, counties, community colleges and universities could be banned from adopting policies that protect undocumented immigrants if Gov. Phil Bryant signs a bill now headed to his desk. On Tuesday, the Senate agreed to changes made in the House on Senate Bill 2710, sponsored by Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport. By concurring with the House, the bill goes straight to Gov. Phil Bryant for consideration. Once approved by the governor, the bill would take effect immediately by voiding policies that municipalities, counties and agencies may adopt that prevent employers from punishing people because of their immigration status.
 
Faith-based council awaits governor's signature
The state's newest task force is the governor's signature away from becoming reality. A bill that would create a governor's council for faith-based groups passed in the Senate Tuesday and only needs Gov. Phil Bryant's signature to become law. The law creates the "Mississippi Faith-Based and Community Advisory Council" and gives the group authority to advise the governor on "policies, priorities, and objectives to enlist, equip, enable, empower, and expand the work of faith-based, volunteer, and other community organizations." The council would serve as a liaison between groups wishing to address social issues and state governmental entities. The idea was put into motion by the governor's office after a meeting with Rabbi Jeffrey Kurtz-Lendner of Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson. Kurtz-Lendner served on a similar council in Florida.
 
Mississippi legislator returns after bypass surgery
The Mississippi House Education Committee chairman is back after bypass surgery. Republican Rep. John Moore of Brandon underwent the surgery March 7 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The 62-year-old has been in the House since 1996. His colleagues greeted him Tuesday in the chamber with whistles, cheers and a cowbell. Moore thanked everyone who had sent him prayers and texts, even there though were too many to name individually, he said. He says he's still a long way from full recovery, but that so far, everything's going well.
 
Delta Doctors program at risk in federal budget
If the Delta Regional Authority is defunded, Mississippi could lose access to an effective program that helps place doctors in underserved rural communities. Like the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Clarksdale-based authority that covers 252 counties and parishes in eight states was not funded in the preliminary budget submitted by President Donald Trump. The authority oversees the Delta Doctors program that has placed 530 U.S. trained, foreign-born physicians in rural communities in eight states – Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee since 2004. Of the 87 placed in 2016, 22 came to Mississippi. Mississippi's senators noted the federal budgeting process is just beginning and the Delta Regional Authority has a strong reputation. "Our state makes good use of Delta Regional Authority funds by supporting roads and bridges to attract industry and improving the health of Mississippians," said Sen. Roger Wicker in a statement.
 
Proposed federal budget cuts could hurt Hattiesburg-Laurel Airport, others
The Trump Administration is looking to cut subsidies for air service to small, rural airports, including the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport. The administration's proposed 2018 fiscal budget would eliminate the decades-old Essential Air Service (EAS) Program. It provides subsidies to air carriers to guarantee service to under-served communities. Tom Heanue, the executive director of the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport, said the subsidies are needed, for passenger convenience and economic development. The Essential Air Service Program costs taxpayers about $175 million each year. About 150 communities are served by it, including Hattiesburg-Laurel, Greenville, Meridian and Tupelo.
 
Eyeing Trump's Budget Plan, Republican Governors Say 'No, Thanks'
Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky was unrestrained in his praise for President Trump: Opening for him at a rally on Monday, Mr. Bevin, a conservative Republican, echoed Mr. Trump's "America First" slogan and only gently noted the nagging divisions in their party. In private, Mr. Bevin has been blunter about the party's disagreements. Just days before appearing with Mr. Trump in Louisville, he joined a conference call with the president's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to protest a White House proposal to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission. Mr. Bevin was not alone in his dismay. As Mr. Trump and his advisers press for bone-deep cuts to the federal budget, Republican governors have rapidly emerged as an influential bloc of opposition. Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama said he intended to push back against planned cuts to the Appalachian and Mississippi Delta economic agencies.
 
Rep. Steven Palazzo joins ceremony to sign a NASA bill
Surrounded by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Rep. Steven Palazzo, President Trump signed a $19.5 billion bill Tuesday to fund NASA programs and reaffirm what he called a "national commitment" to "human space exploration." Trump also hailed the nation's "heroic" and "amazing" astronauts, including those "who have lost their lives" over the decades. "America's space program has been a blessing to our people and to the entire world," Trump said. The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 authorizes funding for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.Last week, the Trump team proposed a budget that would reduce NASA to $19.1 billion for the year after that. Palazzo and other Gulf Coast lawmakers said funding the space program is crucial to the region's economy. Palazzo's district is home to Stennis Space Center, a rocket testing site that Palazzo said employs more than 4,000 workers.
 
House Obamacare repeal DOA in the Senate
Forget the House GOP's troubles passing a health care bill. The party's bigger problem looms in the Senate. Mitch McConnell is being tasked with fixing what GOP senators and House members say is a flawed Obamacare repeal proposal -- one with little to no chance of passing in that chamber in its current form -- in a week's time. The Senate leader and his deputies are nevertheless barreling ahead --- assuming a health care bill clears the House Thursday in what's expected to be a razor-thin vote. It might take a visit from President Donald Trump to get things moving in the right direction in the Senate. "He's been very, very engaged. And obviously it's a priority. He's all in," said Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, a close McConnell ally.
 
While Trump promotes big military buildup, some eye another round of base closings
At the same time that President Donald Trump is pushing a plan to increase defense spending by 10 percent, Washington state Rep. Adam Smith says it's time to save money by closing some of the nation's military bases. Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, wants to reopen the controversial Base Realignment and Closure process, known as BRAC, last used in 2005. While the 11th-term congressman has promoted base closings before with no luck, there are signs that the idea is getting increased attention this year on Capitol Hill. "We ought to give it serious consideration," Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Tuesday. And South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, another member of the panel, sounded receptive to the idea as well, saying: "I'll follow Senator McCain's lead on this."
 
UM students struggle with stress, cope with 'study drugs'
As exams, assignments and responsibilities pile up, some University of Mississippi students might resort to "study drugs" for support. Some students still say they need it as a crutch to balance coursework and other responsibilities. After self-diagnosing himself, one student, who asked to remain anonymous, said he feels like every person who ever believed in him would hold disdain for him if he failed. He said he started paying other students for Adderall throughout his time at Ole Miss. He said he doesn't have health care or a way to pay for the prescription since he has no financial support from his parents. He said the Adderall is easily accessible through other students. He added the students who use the study drugs do it mostly during high-stress times, such as midterms and finals week. Sandra Bentley, director of the Student Health Center pharmacy, said the student pharmacy actually fills more urgent care medications on campus, such as antibiotics, flu and cold symptom treatments, than study drugs.
 
Susan Duncan named UM Law School Dean; begins on Aug. 1
After a national search, Susan Duncan has been chosen as the new dean of the University of Mississippi School of Law. She is scheduled to join the university Aug. 1, pending approval by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Education. "I am thrilled and deeply honored to be joining a law school with such a rich tradition and positive momentum," Duncan said. "I look forward to being part of the Ole Miss family and am excited to help take the law school to new heights." Duncan joins UM from the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, where she served as interim dean from 2012 to 2017 and on the faculty since 1997. Duncan holds a J.D. from the Brandeis School of Law and a bachelor's degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
 
Telecounseling Expands Mental Health Services for Southern Miss Students
Access to health care services provided by The University of Southern Mississippi is becoming more accessible for students along the Mississippi Gulf Coast thanks to the use of telehealth technology. In January, Student Counseling Services, based out of the University's Hattiesburg campus, introduced a new service known as telecounseling to better serve students enrolled in classes at the University's Gulf Park campus in Long Beach and other teaching and research sites on the coast. "Mental health counseling services remain a critical student-support need at our institution," said Dr. Casey Maugh Funderburk, vice provost for the Gulf Park campus. "Expanding our counseling services to include both in-person and telecounseling options allow us to reach more students and the increasing demand for this support at our Gulf Park campus."
 
Visiting students study ecosystem of Deer Island
A group of 60 students from a middle school in Little Rock, Arkansas got to visit a very unusual classroom Tuesday: Deer Island. The trip was sponsored by the Gulf Coast Research Lab. While on the island, the students spotted ospreys, pelicans, and mockingbirds. They also took water samples, learned about the conservation of Deer Island, and even scoured the beach for shells and crabs. For the marine education specialists from GCRL, they were just as happy. Teaching the students about the coast's unique ecosystem is more fun than work for them. "I think experiences are everything," Amelia McCoy said. "Whenever you look back at your life, you think about your experiences and your memories and not the textbooks you've read. So for them, creating this is something that's going to stick with them for a lifetime."
 
Auburn University Senate chair ready to work with next president
James Goldstein made the only comment Tuesday during a meeting of the Auburn University Senate regarding Steven Leath's selection as Auburn University's next president, expressing simultaneous disappointment and appreciation. Goldstein, chair of the Auburn University Senate and professor in the English department, said he wished the presidential selection process was more open but was glad Leath has a strong academic background. Leath, currently the president of Iowa State University, was selected Monday to replace outgoing Auburn University president Jay Gogue. "I heard some faculty members express disappointment in some aspects of the search process," Goldstein said. For better or worse, Goldstein said, presidents have become reluctant to make it publicly known they are looking for jobs at other universities.
 
City approves funding for new Auburn University Performing Arts Center
Fundraising for Auburn University's new performing arts center is one step closer to its $15 million goal after Tuesday night's Auburn City Council meeting. The Auburn City Council voted unanimously to allocate $1.5 million over the next three years to the new Auburn University Performing Arts Center, which is planned for the southwest corner of South College Street and Woodfield Drive. The city will fund $500,000 in fiscal years 2018 through 2020 and continue its investment by contributing $50,000 annually beginning in 2021. These contributions would help fund the initial construction of the facility, which is expected to begin in October, and support the city's community theater program over time.
 
JB Hunt Gives $2.7M to Set Up Innovation Center at U. of Arkansas
J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell announced Wednesday a $2.75 million grant to the University of Arkansas. The publicly traded trucking and logistics firm said the grant will create the J.B. Hunt Innovation Center of Excellence, a collaborative effort among the company and the UA's engineering and business colleges to advance supply chain management efficiency through technology." "This grant will have an incredible impact on the university and further solidify our stature as an innovative leader in supply chain management," UA Provost Jim Coleman said in a news release. "Interdisciplinary research projects are a major focus of ours, and this particular collaboration between industry, faculty and students is a great example of the type of research we continue to pursue." The center will allow engineering, computer science and business researchers and students to work with J.B. Hunt employees to find "solutions to real-world problems through innovative design and technology-driven supply chain solutions."
 
President Trump's budget threatens Tennessee's college work
Tennessee has spent years and millions of dollars trying to pull more people into college, but President Donald Trump's proposed budget threatens to complicate those efforts by slashing federal funding for students facing the most hurdles. The "budget blueprint" released last week by the White House proposes pulling $3.9 billion from reserves for the Pell grant -- which covers costs for low-income students -- and dramatically cutting the cash flow for a suite of programs that fund services for poor students and students who are the first in their families to pursue higher education. The Trump White House's strategy stands in stark contrast to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's approach, which has included money for a number of unprecedented programs under the Drive to 55 mantle, including the Tennessee Promise scholarship and the proposed Tennessee Reconnect grant that combine to offer tuition-free community college to virtually every Tennessean.
 
U. of South Carolina begins buying land for new medical school
The University of South Carolina's real estate arm has started buying pieces of the Bull Street property for its new medical school. The USC Foundation in December purchased five acres of land along Harden Street from the S.C. Department of Mental Health. The university paid $600,000, money donated to it by Bob Hughes, the property's Greenville-based master developer. "He was giving us the land, in effect," USC Foundation director Russ Meekins said. Hughes has pledged eventually to donate 16 acres of the property to the state's flagship university, which plans to build a $200 million medical school and health sciences complex there. USC has lobbied state legislators for $50 million to kick-start the project since last year. So far, those efforts have been unsuccessful.
 
'Howdy Week': New name, same game for Aggies' welcome week
Texas A&M's welcome week for students before the fall semester has a new name, one that university officials said they believe is a better fit. Now officially called Howdy Week, the week-long series of events has operated under the name of Gig 'Em Week since it began in 2000. "Considering the fact that 'Howdy' is the university's official greeting, making this change to our week of welcome for our students was a clear decision," said Howdy Week Coordinator Megan Higginbotham. "We're thrilled to be able to welcome our new and returning Aggies to campus using the university's official greeting as our namesake." This year's renamed Howdy Week will take place Aug. 20-27.
 
U. of Missouri reveals plans for new $40M School of Music building
The School of Music at the University of Missouri revealed architect renderings for a new building Tuesday that will consolidate all of its operations into one building, instead of being spread between six. Plans for the more than $40 million project are moving forward as the university faces a budget crunch, interim College of Arts and Science Dean Pat Okker acknowledged. "I think it's really important to remember that this is a long-term plan," Okker said. "This has been planned for and hoped for for more than two decades. It is ... now more than ever that we need to focus on long-term strategies of how to make the university better." Gov. Eric Greitens withheld $20 million budgeted for MU in the current fiscal year as the university struggles with lower enrollment and less money from tuition. Greitens' proposed budget for next fiscal year recommends further cuts.
 
Ideas for improving higher education's primary role in work force development
In a rare point of agreement, the Trump administration and many academics would like to see less focus on colleges as work force development centers. The administration has said too many students are being prodded toward bachelor's degrees over apprenticeships and other noncollege options. "We must embrace new and effective job-training approaches, including online courses, high school curriculums and private-sector investment that prepare people for trade, manufacturing, technology and other really well-paying jobs and careers," President Trump said last week during a meeting on vocational training with U.S. and German business leaders. "These kinds of options can be a positive alternative to a four-year degree," he said. Likewise, many in higher education, mostly at four-year institutions, resist pressure for colleges to be more attuned to their occupational role, arguing in defense of general education and decrying the transactional view of college as being primarily a means to a job.
 
Republican member of Congress says Pell Grants discourage marriages
Toward the end of a nearly three-hour hearing on improving the federal student aid system, Representative Glenn Grothman identified an issue with Pell Grants that doesn't get much attention. "Anecdotal evidence" in his district, the Wisconsin Republican said, indicated people are choosing not to marry so they can have incomes low enough to qualify for the need-based aid program. Asked to respond by Grothman, the panel of witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development was for several seconds stunned into silence. Grothman also argued that first-year students should be barred from receiving Pell Grants to make sure the federal government is not "wasting money" on those who don't graduate. And he suggested that low-income recipients are spending the grant aid on "goodies and electronics." Those students could pay for college by taking out loans, he said. Grothman's comments did not receive a favorable response from hearing observers online.
 
Rep. Andy Gipson's quest for truth reflects misunderstanding
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "State Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, has his toga in a knot because a Delta newspaper publisher offered his opinion -- opinion -- that Gipson, who chairs House Judiciary B, went too far in mixing religion and public policy. On a Facebook page (Mississippi Responsible Journalism Initiative) he launched earlier this month, Gipson says the column by Ray Mosby of Rolling Fork's Deer Creek Pilot, pushed him into action. Gipson said he will spearhead a quest enlisting citizens to expose journalists who fail to verify facts before publishing. ...Journalists seek truth, but often tell the best available version. To spout off that this state's media is irresponsible and/or intentionally misleads readers or viewers reflects a basic misunderstanding. For one thing, the public's trust that we will seek truth and provide it is the only thing that keeps us in business."
 
MEC has supported tax cuts, tax increases
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "The highly influential Mississippi Economic Council is touting a House proposal that will take about $50 million out of the state general fund at a time when state tax collections are declining and multiple state agencies are facing cuts and layoffs. MEC believes that money should be diverted from the general fund to a program to improve what the business group and many others say is a quickly deteriorating state and local transportation system. There are multiple studies and evidence to support the proposition that the state needs to spend more on infrastructure -- a lot more."


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State thriving with father-daughter combo
Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer and guard Blair Schaefer established the separation between father-daughter and coach-player nearly a decade ago when Blair was in seventh grade. The coach watched from the stands as his daughter turned the ball over multiple times during an AAU game. She was nearly in tears at halftime. He said at that moment Blair had a decision to make -- did she want him to talk to her as a coach or a father? She said a coach. "Then stop turning that dadgum thing over," he said. Vic Schaefer doesn't have many complaints about Blair's recent performance. She has emerged as one of the unlikely stars of the NCAA Tournament.
 
Mississippi State preps for second straight Sweet 16
Video: Mississippi State has advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year in the NCAA Tournament. The seventh-ranked Bulldogs will meet No. 12 Washington Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 in Oklahoma City. Head coach Vic Schaefer, along with senior guard Dominique Dillingham and sophomore center Teaira McCowan, talked about the matchup prior to practice on Tuesday.
 
Mississippi State up against all-time leading scorer in Sweet 16
The question lingered for five seconds with Vic Schaefer just staring at the reporter who asked it. The silence felt like an eternity because Schaefer has been as talkative as he has been successful since taking over Mississippi State's women's basketball team five years ago. How will the Bulldogs make things difficult for the sport's all-time leading scorer Kelsey Plum? That will be a significant part of the task for MSU's hopes to advance in the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Friday when the second-seeded Bulldogs play third-seeded Washington in a Sweet 16 matchup in Oklahoma City (6 p.m., ESPN2). The delayed response from Schaefer indicated two things: 1.) There is no obvious answer because Plum is that good and 2.) If he thinks he has a blueprint that may work, there is no way he is sharing it prior to Friday.
 
Bulldogs' Jazzmun Holmes has fun in push to Sweet 16
It was impossible to deny the pride on Vic Schaefer's face Sunday when he talked about the performance of Jazzmun Holmes. The sophomore guard from Gulfport had a career-high 14 points and handed out six assists in the second-seeded Mississippi State women's basketball team's 92-71 victory against seventh-seeded DePaul at Humphrey Coliseum. Holmes played a key role in helping the Bulldogs build a one-point halftime lead to as big as an 18-point cushion in the third quarter. While Schaefer gushed about Holmes in the post-game media room, another coach had just as big a smile on her face in MSU's locker room. "I was proud," MSU assistant coach Dionnah Jackson-Durrett said. "We see it every day. Her potential -- her ceiling is so high."
 
Golden Eagles get pearl of an effort to top Bulldogs; Rebels fall
Southern Miss hasn't had much baseball success against Mississippi State lately. That changed Tuesday night. Behind two big innings and the pitching of Taylor Braley, the Golden Eagles held off a late Mississippi State rally to win 7-5 and extend its winning streak to eight games at Trustmark Park in front of an announced crowd of 5,198. Southern Miss (17-4) has won just two times over Mississippi State in the last seven meetings. "Proud of the guys for fighting, but we need to find ways to win close games," said first-year MSU coach Andy Cannizaro. "Some point, we need to win these type of games." Ole Miss (14-7) lost 2-1 in 11 innings at Memphis.
 
Baseball decision proves beneficial for Mississippi State's Jacob Barton
Baseball was more of an afterthought for Jacob Barton coming out of high school. Barton was a four-year starter at quarterback at Caldwell Parrish in Columbia, Louisiana, and set his sights on being a signal caller at the next level. Despite interest from several smaller schools, including Louisiana-Monroe, the 6-foot-1, 198-pounder decided to give baseball a shot and signed with LSU-Eunice after his senior season. "I'm glad I made that decision, and I'm glad I'm pitching now," Barton said. That choice allowed Barton to win a Junior College National Championship during his freshman year for the Bengals. After allowing only one run in 22 1/3 innings as a sophomore with 31 strikeouts, the right-hander had his share of scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth and chose to stay closer to home and attend Mississippi State.
 
Bulldogs working several at center this spring
Mississippi State is spending its spring in search of a center. Two-year starter Jamaal Clayborn graduated as did his back-up Jocquell Johnson, leaving the Bulldogs without a center who's snapped at the collegiate level. "We've got some guys rotating there," said MSU coach Dan Mullen. "It's not just about finding a replacement, we've got to find a couple of guys to get in there and get it done for us. You've got to have at least three centers so we'll have some guys rotating in and getting ready to go."
 
Mississippi State's Aeris Williams not short on confidence this spring
Between explaining how studying film helped him become Mississippi State's featured back late last season and wondering aloud how to get the song "C'Mon 'N Ride It (The Train)" playing after runs, Aeris Williams made a guarantee. "It's going to be hard to stop me this year," Williams said after practice Tuesday night. "I promise you." That's right. Williams this spring, according to coaches, teammates and, yes, himself, is operating with an unrivaled and noticeable confidence. Along with growing into more of an on-field leader, the self-assurance is likely the most significant change in Williams' game compared to last year.
 
New Mississippi State coach Ron English helping Brandon Bryant regain his balance
Brandon Bryant arrived to Mississippi State as a top-20 prospect in the state. After a redshirt year in 2014, Bryant showcased his potential as a redshirt freshman by finishing third among all Southeastern Conference freshmen -- first among SEC freshmen defensive backs -- with 63 tackles. He also led the Bulldogs and all SEC freshmen in interceptions (three), and was one of two SEC freshmen to return an interception for a touchdown. In all, Bryant started eight games as a redshirt freshman and nine as a sophomore. In that time Bryant intercepted four passes, broke up three more, and had at least 60 tackles in both seasons. But Ron English saw something weighing Bryant down when he arrived as MSU's new safeties coach. "I felt like (football) was kind of a burden," English said.
 
LSU schedules McNeese for 2021 home opener, will face UCLA at Rose Bowl too
Maybe this time it will work out. LSU will host McNeese State for the 2021 home opener in Tiger Stadium, the schools announced Tuesday. The two teams will meet Sept. 11, 2021, a week after the Tigers open the season at UCLA. LSU will pay McNeese $600,000 for the game, LSU deputy director of athletics Verge Ausberry said. LSU and McNeese met in Tiger Stadium to open the 2015 season. Shortly after that game began, a thunderstorm rolled through Baton Rouge, ultimately canceling the affair. It was the first LSU cancellation in nearly 100 years. LSU refunded a majority of the tickets sold for the McNeese game, but it recorded $2.5 million for loss of game insurance revenue.
 
SEC Rises: Football League Has 3 Teams Vying for Elite Eight
Tennessee's Rick Barnes has coached in the Big East, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12. He's made the NCAA Tournament nearly two dozen times and advanced to the Final Four. He's been around. He's seen it done a number of different ways. So Barnes has credibility when he raves about his current league, the Southeastern Conference. "I've said it all year: This league is better than everybody's giving it credit for," Barnes said Tuesday. Long considered a football power, the SEC is showing some basketball promise. The league, which many thought might get just three teams in the NCAA Tournament a few months ago, could have three in the Elite Eight. Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina play in the Sweet 16 on Friday night.
 
College Coaching Changes Are the Real Madness in March
Just as millions of basketball fans were tuning in to the first full day of the N.C.A.A. tournament last Thursday, Indiana University announced that it had fired its coach, Tom Crean. Just like that -- two chunky paragraphs released by a team that wasn't even in the field -- the annual coaching carousel had begun to whirl. Every spring, as the coaching carousel starts spinning, fans are reminded that while the N.C.A.A. tournament is often contested by players during this time of the year, a college's reaching it almost always demands a good coach leading the way. Televised games and required media interviews serve both as a catwalk for coaches on the rise and as a shopping mall for colleges looking for their own taste of the big time.
 
Football has a brain injury problem; he may know enough about both to solve it
Myron Rolle, dressed in a light blue plaid jacket and dark slacks, was ready for his close-up. Within the hour, his life would change. For the time being, though, he waited in line with his fellow medical students for class photos. "It's just like a football picture," he said. "I'm not going to smile. I'm going to give a mean look." Rolle's mother, Beverly, kept wiping sweat from his head, but she could do nothing to calm his nerves. This was what medical students call Match Day, the much-anticipated unveiling of where the nation's next class of doctors would spend their residencies. Rolle likened it to the NFL draft: He had no idea who might choose him to join their team. Rolle, 30, was the only prospective neurosurgeon in Florida State's graduating class -- and also the only former NFL player and the only Rhodes Scholar.



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