Thursday, March 30, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
MSU Libraries' 'Ragtime' festival returns Thursday
When Mississippi State University Libraries' Templeton Ragtime and Jazz Festival returns next Thursday, patrons of Mitchell Memorial Library will travel back to the 1920s and experience what many consider one of the most fascinating eras in American culture. "We want to share the significance, joy and excitement of our indigenous American music. Ragtime and jazz were created right here on our soil, and we look forward to celebrating that every year at the Templeton Festival," said internationally renowned pianist Jeff Barnhart, now serving his fourth year as the festival's artistic director. In addition to MSU Libraries and the university's School of Human Sciences, this year's festival sponsors include MaxxSouth Broadband, Greater Starkville Development Partnership, Mississippi Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts.
MSU-Meridian professor to be keynote speaker at conference
A Mississippi State University-Meridian assistant professor of educational leadership will serve as keynote speaker for a national conference in early April. Penny Wallin will give the featured address during the National Field Experience Conference in Ruston, Louisiana April 5-6. The purpose of the conference is to share information, practices, policies and research pertaining to teacher candidates' experiences in school settings. Wallin currently serves as executive director for the Mississippi Alliance for Arts in Education and is on the community action team with the John F. Kennedy Center's Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child Meridian site.
Session ends, work remains
Legislators wrapped up the 2017 legislative session Wednesday afternoon, but they did not complete their work. Everyone concedes legislators will return before the new fiscal year begins July 1 where they will presumably pass budgets to fund the office of Attorney General, the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the state Aid Road Program that provides state funds to counties to help with the upkeep of their major roads. Another item that did not pass was a bond bill to allow the state to issue debt to finance long-term construction projects, such as on university and community college campuses. When asked if he would like to see Gov. Phil Bryant include bonds on the agenda for any special session, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said, "I'm not real excited at the thought of costing taxpayers money (through a special session) to put them further in debt."
Mississippi Legislature ends session with budgets unfinished
The Mississippi Legislature ended its 2017 regular session Wednesday, but will have to return later to pass budgets for the attorney general's office and the Department of Transportation. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will decide the start date for a special session and set the agenda. Lawmakers expect to return before July 1, when the new budget year begins. It's possible Bryant could ask them to consider other issues such as borrowing for construction projects, rewriting the state school funding formula or finding long-term financing for highways and bridges. Just before leaving the Capitol, House members said farewell to longtime Republican Rep. Mark Formby of Picayune. He is leaving the Legislature to join the three-member Workers Compensation Commission -- a post to which he was nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Lawmakers call it a session, sine die
The House and Senate wrapped up a few final bills and left Jackson on Wednesday afternoon, ending the 2017 regular legislative session after passing more major budget cuts for most state agencies for the coming year. "I want to say a personal word of gratitude to this body for the way that we have conducted business this semester," Gunn told House members before the House adjourned "sine die," without a day of return set. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves in a news conference enumerated many accomplishments of the session: passage of campaign finance reform, education measures including $20 million in merit pay for teachers, a "back-the-badge" bill that would double the penalties for crimes against first responders and funding of a "trooper school" to put more Highway Patrolmen on the roads. But lawmakers are ending the state's 132nd regular session with unfinished business.
Legislature is a wrap -- but they'll be back
After months of speculation about an overhaul of the state's school funding formula and a push by leadership to move quickly on new legislation, lawmakers went home Wednesday without seeing a single education funding bill. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith said he was disappointed a revision of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program did not come to fruition in the regular session. "I think if we can show him (Gov. Phil Bryant) some more unity, I think he would want to do something on redefining educational funding -- not the formula, but the method," Smith said. Smith, who has been in the Legislature for 26 years, said disagreements between the House and the Senate have happened before. "It's a lot like a marriage. We're estranged right now," he said.
Welfare audit bill passes with no statistics given on fraud
Mississippi could hire a private company to audit Medicaid, welfare and food stamp recipients and make sure they aren't cheating the program under legislation approved by the Senate on Wednesday after a debate in which supporters offered no statistics about welfare fraud. The bill, which is on its way to Gov. Phil Bryant, had already passed the House on Tuesday. House Bill 1090 would let the state hire a contractor to help check that recipients live in Mississippi and are who they claim to be. The contractor would also check recipients' income levels. The measure also requires able-bodied recipients to be working, and it tracks where recipients use their money.
Medicaid fraud bill survives Democratic fight
Senate Republicans completed action Wednesday on a sweeping Medicaid fraud bill that Democrats tried vainly to stop. House Bill 1090, known as the Act to Restore Hope Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone, will toughen the beneficiary vetting process for Medicaid and the Department of Human Services to root out fraud. The legislation passed the Senate 30 to 17, on a mostly party line vote and goes to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature. The House passed the bill Tuesday, also mostly along party lines. Senate Medicaid Chairman Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, defended the final bill, arguing that similar programs had uncovered millions of dollars in other states. Senate Democrats argued that the Legislature needed more concrete information on how much money the new vetting process would save before investing money in a process that might not gain the projected savings.
State to help Jackson pay for road, infrastructure repairs around Capitol
The Legislature passed a measure to divert state sales taxes to Jackson to help with infrastructure around the Capitol area --- where tax-exempt buildings pose a drain on city coffers. Mayor Tony Yarber called the move "monumental," and Gov. Phil Bryant, who helped push for the legislation, is expected to sign it into law. House and Senate negotiators worked into the night Tuesday to craft an agreement on the "Capitol Complex" bill. Both the House and Senate passed the final version of the bill Wednesday shortly before the end of the 2017 legislative session. "We all want a capital city that is successful, one all of us can be proud of," said Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson. The bill creates a Capitol Complex Improvement District that includes the state Capitol, surrounding state government buildings and encompasses areas around Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Capitol Complex finally clears Legislature
The House and Senate signed off Wednesday on creating a Capitol Complex district in Jackson, after several failed attempts in the past several years. Similar to last year, negotiations on House Bill 1226 went down to the last wire and was one of the last pieces of legislation the Legislature considered. Over the weekend, Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said the House and Senate were working out the boundaries of the proposed district. The Senate did not have set boundaries, but the plan that passed includes an area north of Jackson State University as well as the Fondren business district. "If you look at the bipartisanship (involved), I think it was one of the highlights of the session," Horhn said.
Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, sees two bills head to governor
The Mississippi Legislature ended its 2017 regular session Wednesday, but will have to return later to pass budgets for the attorney general's office and the Department of Transportation. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will decide the start date for a special session and set the agenda. The new budget year begins July 1. Among bills sent to Bryant include two by Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven. Senate Bill 2680 allows domestic violence to be considered as a ground for divorce in court. Mississippi was one of the few states in the nation that did not specifically outline domestic violence as a ground for divorce. Senate Bill 2689 brings more transparency to political expenses and places restrictions on spending to campaign-related needs. The bill includes a prohibition on personal expenses, payments to relatives and loans to candidates.
Legislative session ends at Capitol for DeSoto delegation
The gavel has fallen on the 2017 session of the Mississippi Legislature, although there is anticipation of a special session later this spring in order to pass budgets for the attorney general's office and the Department of Transportation. "We sine died about four minutes ago," said state Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, turning the Latin phrase which means "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing" from an adverb into an active verb. That would seem to be appropriate because the 2017 session will go down as one of the most "active" on record. Parker said the accomplishments of the session were mixed with failure of passage of the extension of the repealer on the controversial "Penny for the Parks" which funds parks and recreational projects and the Horn Lake hotel surcharge that helps fund the Horn Lake Chamber of Commerce and other projects.
Sens. Wicker and Kaine Announce Bipartisan Push to Enhance Cybersecurity Scholarships
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Co-Chair of the Community Colleges Caucus and Tim Kaine, D-Va., Co-Chair of the Career and Technical Education Caucus, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced legislation to further improve the cybersecurity workforce pipeline by expanding and enhancing an existing federal scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity fields. "Cybersecurity threats are rapidly increasing and impact nearly every industry," said Wicker. "CyberCorps Scholarship-for-Service, as well as other DOD and NSA programs, provides resources to train the next generation in our fight against cyber-attacks. Mississippi State University has been a leader in this endeavor, utilizing the CyberCorps program for the past decade. This legislation would continue that support while expanding access to community college and K-12 students across Mississippi. It is critical that the federal government and private industry be prepared to prevent future attacks. This bill is a way to help meet a growing demand in the cybersecurity workforce."
Trump says 'We must fight' hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus in 2018 midterm elections
President Trump effectively declared war Thursday on the House Freedom Caucus, the powerful group of hard-line conservative Republicans who blocked the health-care bill, vowing to "fight them" in the 2018 midterm elections. In a morning tweet, Trump warned that the Freedom Caucus would "hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast." He grouped its members, all of them Republican, with Democrats in calling for their political defeat -- an extraordinary incitement of intraparty combat from a sitting president. With his tweet, Trump seemed to be encouraging primary challenges to each of them in next year's elections. Asked to elaborate on Trump's threat, the White House had no immediate comment.
With Washington's Blessing, Telecom Giants Can Mine Your Web History
What if your telecom company tracked the websites you visit, the apps you use, the TV shows you watch, the stores you shop at and the restaurants you eat at, and then sold that information to advertisers? In theory, it's possible, given the stance Washington is taking on online privacy. Lawmakers on Tuesday voted to overturn privacy rules that required telecom companies to get customers' permission before sharing their web-browsing and app usage history with third parties. The White House said Wednesday President Donald Trump intends to sign the measure into law. The telecom providers had argued the rules put them at a competitive disadvantage to online ad giants Google and Facebook, which generally aren't regulated by the FCC.
Climate-Friendly Coal Technology Works But Is Proving Difficult To Scale Up
When President Trump signed an order to roll back climate policies, he promised more jobs for coal miners. There is a big effort to do reduce coal's effect on climate change by capturing the carbon emissions from coal plants before they escape into the atmosphere. Mississippi Power's Kemper County Energy Facility is the most ambitious carbon capture project in the U.S. right now. It's a new coal power plant, built from the ground up. But there have been a few problems during construction. Some environmental groups don't support carbon capture projects like this. They want coal left in the ground and renewable energy to take its place. But the wind and solar industries likely won't grow fast enough to meet the world's energy needs for decades.
Distraction cited as U.S. pedestrian deaths spiked in 2016
Pedestrian deaths are climbing faster than motorist fatalities, reaching nearly 6,000 deaths last year -- the highest total in more than two decades, according to an analysis of preliminary state data released Thursday. Increased driving due to an improved economy, lower gas prices and more walking for exercise and environmental factors are some of the likely reasons behind the estimated 11 percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in 2016. The figures were prepared for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices. But researchers say they think the biggest factor may be more drivers and walkers distracted by cellphones and other electronic devices, although that's hard to confirm.
Louisiana-bred 'Duck Dynasty' marks end with finale, but state tax credit costs still hazy
Farewell Phil. Bye-bye Si. See ya Sadie. "Duck Dynasty" has flown the TV coop. The hourlong series finale of A&E's West Monroe-set reality show aired Wednesday night following the network's all-day "Duck" marathon and the prolific Robertson family's afternoon Facebook Live appearance in which they answered fans' questions. Because the show was filmed in Louisiana, it was eligible for the state's lucrative film tax credit program. The Advocate reported last year that a review of Louisiana Economic Development records shows that, if the credits were cashed in, the state would owe upward of $14 million in subsidies for the show. As of mid-November, about $464,265 in credits had been issued for the show's first season. It's unclear why the rest has been left unresolved. The economic development department said in a statement then that no audits have been submitted for additional seasons yet and no credits have been issued.
Mississippi University for Women hosts annual community health fair
"Make Wellness Your Goal" was this year's theme for an annual community health fair in Columbus. The Mississippi University for Women hosted dozens of vendors Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. until noon. People learned more about services and resources available across Northeast Mississippi. They had blood pressure screenings and hearing tests. New this year were free screenings for kidney disease. Organizers say it's all about helping with wellness and health goals. "Being in a rural community, a lot of our community members don't know what kind of health care services they have so our goal is to bring all these vendors together from Tupelo, Starkville, Columbus and just let the community know this is what's out here," health and kinesiology graduate assistant Cole Phillips said.
Student leader wants to strike down Ole Miss' alcohol and drug two-strike rule
Newly elected Associated Student Body Judicial Chair Will Nowell announced his plans on Wednesday to propose a resolution in the fall designed to repeal and replace the University of Mississippi's two-strike policy. Nowell said he believes the alcohol and drug penalty should be replaced with one that better reflects the ideals of the university. The two-strike policy places minimum sanctions on students who commit alcohol- and drug-related offenses on campus, such as unlawful possession of drugs or underage drinking in dorms. The problem, Nowell said, is the minimum sanctions do not take into account the specifics of each case, and often a lesser offense, like possessing alcohol in a dorm room, is given punishment equal to a much larger offense, like a DUI. "I think that the two-strike policy was created at a time with a lot of emotional tension involved," Nowell said.
Ole Miss Insurance Symposium tackles critical industry issues
Key industry issues, including the Affordable Care Act and catastrophe management, were examined in depth at the annual Ole Miss Insurance Symposium, hosted for the 22nd consecutive year by the University of Mississippi's risk management and insurance program. Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association, opened the symposium with a discussion of critical issues facing the industry in 2017. She noted the need for talent in the insurance industry and commended the RMI program on the strength of its students. The symposium concluded with a panel featuring Mike Chaney, Mississippi insurance commissioner, and Joel Wood, senior vice president of government affairs for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers.
Another member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Southern Miss dismissed
Another member of the University of Southern Mississippi's Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has been dismissed from the organization in connection with a party Oct. 29 at the fraternity house. The dismissal is revealed in a letter from Thomas Burke, the university's vice president for student affairs and vice provost, to the campus community. The letter was printed Monday in the student newspaper, The Student Printz. This latest dismissal comes after actions taken earlier this year in which five fraternity members were expelled, five were put on early alum/inactive status and 15 members were placed on probation -- all in connection to the homecoming party. The letter also confirmed for the first time a Title IX investigation into an allegation of sexual assault allegedly committed at the party.
Researchers at U. of Alabama study stress on police officers
Researchers at the University of Alabama are monitoring the brain activity of police officers in the simulated stress of "shoot, don't shoot" scenarios, with the hope that what they learn can help improve training for first responders in the future. "Stress has an amazing impact on human beings, on how we perform," professor Rick Houser said, noting that stress can impact motor skills and decision-making. Houser, who is in UA's Department of Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology and Counseling, became interested in the question of how first responders dealt with stress and its impact a few years ago. Houser and his colleagues have partnered with a law enforcement agency to monitor the brain activity of officers participating in virtual reality simulations of situations where the officers may have to use deadly force.
U. of Alabama lectures to focus on Civil War history
A lecture series on Saturday at the University of Alabama will offer scholars' insights into the history of the Civil War. The annual John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders Lecture Series will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Sellers Auditorium at the Bryant Conference Center, 240 Paul W. Bryant Drive. "The J.C.C. Sanders Lecture Series is a great collaboration between UA Museums and the UA department of history," said William Bomar, executive director of UA Museums. The lineup of speakers includes Michal LeVasseur, a retired alliance liaison for the National Geographic Society; Keith Bohannon, a professor of history at the University of West Georgia; and historian Robert K. Krick.
Auburn student seriously injured after being hit by pick-up truck
An Auburn student was left with serious injuries after being hit by a truck as she was crossing Magnolia Avenue on Tuesday night. Auburn police said the student, a 27-year-old woman, remains listed in unsatisfactory condition at Midtown Medical Center in Columbus. Police did not release her name. She was crossing West Magnolia Avenue near Cox Street when she was hit by a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck traveling east bound. The driver of the truck, a 20-year-old Auburn student, remained at the scene and cooperated with police. He was not injured.
An Auburn specialty license plate in Florida? One AU alum lawmaker is proposing just that
While Florida offers specialty license plates for many of the state's universities, one Florida lawmaker now wants a plate for Auburn University, his out-of-state alma mater. Rep. James Grant is pushing to add Auburn University, Florida State Beekeepers Association and Beat Childhood Cancer specialty license plates to the mix of 120-plus options already available to Florida drivers. Proceeds from these plates are supposed to be used in Florida, but because Auburn University is in Alabama, the bill is trying to make an exception.
U. of Tennessee tuition hikes at 3 percent or less
University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro says tuition increases will be at 3 percent or less for the third year in a row due to self-imposed budget restraints. The university says in a news release that DiPietro told the school's board of trustees Wednesday is preparing another set of cost-saving goals. In 2015, the board approved budget boundaries for two fiscal years beginning in July 2015 to address a projected $377 million annual funding gap by 2025. DiPietro reconvened a budget advisory group in January to find more cost-cutting and revenue-generating ideas.
No firm deadlines in place as U. of Tennessee considers outsourcing
University of Tennessee leaders offered few clues Wednesday as to whether they will decide to "opt in" to a controversial plan to outsource facilities management work at college campuses and other public properties and said there is no firm deadline for when decisions might be made. The outsourcing proposal from Gov. Bill Haslam was discussed Wednesday by the UT Board of Trustees Finance and Administration Committee as a last-minute agenda item, a day after the state announced it had chosen Chicago-based JLL -- which already manages about 10 percent of the state's facilities. From the beginning, the plan has generated concern over the impact on campus workers and questions about how much projected savings will add up to.
Vanderbilt University, VU Medical Center have $9.5 billion impact, report says
Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center pumped a combined $9.5 billion into the Tennessee economy during the 2015-16 fiscal year, according to a report released this week. That economic impact was driven by construction, jobs, health care, and visitor and student spending. As a result, the report said, Vanderbilt generated $229.3 million in tax revenue for the state. The report also analyzed the ripple effect of the two institutions' work, concluding that they are "fostering a superior quality of life for Tennesseans." The report noted the importance of federal and state research funding to the work of the university and medical center. The university was awarded $234.5 million in research funding, and VUMC was awarded $458.3 million.
Texas A&M's Physics and Engineering Festival features student-run presentations for community
The 2017 Physics and Engineering Festival at Texas A&M is set to kick off Friday, giving community members the opportunity to learn from and interact with students and faculty members from the university. The event will feature more than 200 participating students from the university-funded Discover, Explore and Enjoy Physics and Engineering program, 50 faculty members and dozens of additional student volunteers. Those who visit the free festival Saturday can explore nearly 200 student-run presentations and experiments spread out in and around the George P. Mitchell Physics Building on the north side of A&M's campus. Instructional associate professor of physics Tatiana Erukhimova, one of the event's organizers, said among the new additions to this year's festival is "The Physics of Cooking." The Friday evening presentation will feature Harvard University professor of physics David Weitz alongside local restaurant owner Peter Madden and Mitch Siegert of Truman Chocolates.
U. of Missouri interim Chancellor Hank Foley says salary not major factor in taking New York job
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley will not become the permanent leader of the University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia. Instead, Foley on Wednesday accepted the job of president of New York Institute of Technology, a position that carried a salary of $1.1 million when it was ranked in 2015 as the 23rd best-paying post as university president. Foley is paid $459,000 as interim chancellor, the same salary received by his predecessor, R. Bowen Loftin. Foley's last day at MU will be May 3. He takes over his new post on June 1. Salary was not a major factor in the decision, Foley said in an interview. While it is much higher than his current pay, the cost of living in New York is much higher as well, he said.
Louisiana-Monroe has to give away fish, plant collection to make room for running track
The University of Louisiana Monroe is giving away its natural history museum's fish and plant collections to make way for an improved running track, academic affairs vice president Eric Pani said in a statement posted to the university's Facebook page Tuesday. These collections, meant for research, are stored in Brown Stadium. "Many of the specimens are preserved in flammable liquid and must be kept in a facility with a fire sprinkler system," the statement said. The rest of the museum moved last year to Hanna Hall. A planned expansion has been postponed for two years. "Unfortunately, the fiscal situation facing the university over the years requires us to make choices like this. We can no longer afford to store the collections and provide all of the public services we have in the past," Pani said.
First US 'microcollege' helps single moms become liberal arts graduates
Holyoke, Mass. is a former paper mill town in the state's western half, which has high poverty and a teen pregnancy rate nearly five times the state average. Founded in 1986, The Care Center, which started as a social services provider, also provides free alternative schooling coupled with comprehensive wraparound supports so that roughly 100 young moms pass their high school equivalency exam (HiSet) each year. Now, it's enrolling them in college. Last August, The Care Center, in partnership with Bard College, launched the first nationally accredited "microcollege," a selective two-year liberal arts associate's degree program that admits a tight-knit cohort of about 20 Care Center high school graduates each semester. The center provides the young mothers with the same supports -- including transportation, health care, child care, and counseling -- designed to allow them to focus on one thing that will keep them and their children out of poverty: a degree.
Betsy DeVos Calls for More School Choice, Saying Money Isn't the Answer
Betsy DeVos, in her first extended policy address as education secretary, argued on Wednesday for an expansion of school choice programs, pointing to lagging test scores and a program championed by the Obama administration that funneled billions into low-performing schools but failed to produce better academic outcomes. Speaking at the Brookings Institution, which released a ranking of choice options in the country's 100 largest school districts, Ms. DeVos made her case for choice policies that she said focused on the "individual child." And she called for the rejection of an "us versus them mentality" when it comes to investing in programs, like charter schools and school vouchers, to which President Trump has proposed giving part of a $1.4 billion funding increase in the fiscal year that begins in October.
Triumphs, tragedies marked Bill Minor's storied journalism career
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "It is important to remember that in the last decades of his long life, Bill Minor wasn't writing daily news coverage as he had for The New Orleans Times-Picayune. He was writing a syndicated opinion column. Few journalists afforded that public forum ever used it more effectively and with greater influence on public policy than did Minor -- a tough old World War II veteran. But the fact that Minor was expressing his opinions didn't stop conservative Republicans -- and not a few conservative Democrats -- from loving to loathe Minor when he skewered them or their ideals in print. ...In his column over the years, Bill took some shots at me over things he disagreed with in my columns and I usually returned the fire with both barrels."

Bulldogs turn attention to perfect UConn
Mississippi State didn't have long to celebrate its overtime victory over Baylor on Sunday night, a win that is sending the Bulldogs to the first Final Four in program history. MSU flew back to Starkville immediately following the game and was greeted by over 200 fans at Zacharias Village on campus around 2:30 a.m. Since then, the Bulldogs' players have been like rock stars on campus receiving congratulations and well wishers from fans, fellow students and faculty alike. A couple of players were even surprised with cakes in class commemorating their achievement. "It's been amazing to see the support within the community and see how much people are supporting women's basketball here at Mississippi State," said MSU guard Dominique Dillingham. "The students have been really great also. But it's Tuesday now so we've got to put away all that excitement, get back to the game plan and get ready for UConn."
Willingness to take charges behind Mississippi State's toughness
Mississippi State's road to the Final Four hurt and the Bulldogs fell down a lot. That wasn't meant to be interpreted as a philosophical statement or metaphor. For MSU, the path to Dallas and a semifinal against UConn Friday night (9 p.m., ESPN) was literally painful. That's not to say the Bulldogs would have had it any other way. They wouldn't. So don't feel bad for them, either. Eight players at one point of the season or another on Mississippi State's women's basketball team chose to stand in front of an opposing and moving player, absorb contact, fall to the ground and take a charge. "Actually," Dom Dillingham said with a laugh earlier this season, "Coach (Vic) Schaefer makes us." Either way, the Bulldogs drew 79 charges in 33 games before the NCAA Tournament started two weeks ago. "Mississippi State," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, "is such a really tough, tough team."
Bulldogs older, wiser entering rematch with Huskies
Timid and shell-shocked were words used Monday by members of the television crew covering the Oregon women's basketball team's experience against four-time reigning national champion Connecticut. Vic Schaefer and Mississippi State know the feelings all too well. Last season, UConn defeated MSU 98-38 in the Sweet 16 at the Bridgeport Regional in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The margin of victory as the largest in a NCAA regional semifinal. MSU senior Breanna Richardson and Dominique Dillingham said Tuesday they watched UConn's 90-52 victory against Oregon and saw things that looked just like their matchup. "Oregon is led by three freshmen, three really good freshmen, and I think it was their first time playing against Connecticut," Dillingham said. "Connecticut can have that effect on you. They play really fast and they can make you turn the ball over. I think that attributed to their success last night."
Final Four: Finding right players has helped UConn remain gold standard
If it is getting harder and harder to return to the Final Four, like Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma claimed Tuesday morning, then the veteran coach has found a way to make difficult things look easy. On Monday, four-time reigning national champion UConn took its next step toward its record 12 NCAA Division I title with a 90-52 victory against Oregon in the championship game of the Bridgeport Regional in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Napheesa Collier scored 28 points and Gabby Williams added 25 to help UConn (36-0) advance to the national semifinals for the 10th-straight year. UConn will take on Mississippi State (33-4) at 9 p.m. Friday (ESPN2) in the evening's second game. South Carolina and Stanford will play in the first game at 6:30 p.m. The winners will meet at 5 p.m. Sunday for the national title. "It just seems like it gets harder and harder to believe because it is getting harder and harder to accomplish this," Auriemma said Tuesday.
Bulldogs get shot at avenging record loss
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Logan Lowery writes: "Most would admit that Mississippi State had a very good women's basketball team last year. That Bulldog team finished second in the Southeastern Conference, second at the SEC Tournament and established a school record with 28 wins. But MSU's season came to an abrupt and downright ugly end in the Sweet 16 when it ran across the buzzsaw of the eventual national champion, Connecticut. The Huskies took State to the woodshed right from the jump in their backyard of Bridgeport in what would be a 98-38 victory, the most lopsided game in the final four rounds in NCAA Tournament history. Vic Schaefer is as competitive as they come, and that 60-point loss has stuck in his craw ever since. Even a calendar year later, Schaefer still cringes at the thought of that dark day. ...One thing that is certain is the 2016-17 edition of the Bulldogs is better than the team that took the court against UConn last year."
Ole Miss, Mississippi State ready to renew rivalry
In baseball, good pitching tends to beat good hitting. But nobody really theorizes about what happens when a struggling offense and struggling pitching staff meet. This week's rivalry series between No. 22 Ole Miss and Mississippi State, which opens Thursday at Swayze Field in Oxford (7 p.m., ESPNU), will shed some light on such a scenario. It's essentially a battle between a resistible force against a movable object. The Rebels (16-9, 3-3 SEC) enter the game ranked 13th in the 14-team SEC in batting average (.246) and on-base percentage (.334), and last in runs scored (110) and hits (196). Meanwhile, the Bulldogs (16-10, 3-3) enter the game 13th in the conference in team ERA (4.53) and runs allowed (130), 12th in opponent batting average (.245) and 14th in walks issued (122). Both squads are going through the ups and downs that are expected from young teams.
Mississippi State seeking better results at Swayze Field
Mississippi State is hoping its second SEC road trip is more productive than its first. The Diamond Dogs were swept at Arkansas on the opening weekend of conference play but have gone 4-1 since, including a home sweep over Tennessee last weekend. MSU (16-10, 3-3 SEC) will try to keep the momentum going at No. 19 Ole Miss starting tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. The in-state series continues Friday at 6 p.m. on SEC Network and concludes Saturday at 1:30 p.m. "It is going to be a tremendous weekend ahead of us and an ultra-competitive series for us," said MSU coach Andy Cannizaro. "I am excited to get into the Ole Miss-Mississippi State rivalry in baseball and putting our own mark on the rivalry moving forward."
Ole Miss hosts Mississippi State in oldest-running SEC baseball series
Ole Miss plays host to Mississippi State in its SEC series on Thursday night at Swayze Field. MSU (16-10, 3-3 SEC) takes a four-game winning streak against in-state rival Ole Miss (16-9, 3-3 SEC). Game 1 will be played at 7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. Friday's 6 p.m. contest will be nationally televised on the SEC Network. Saturday's finale will be at 1:30 p.m. and on SEC Network plus. The oldest-running SEC baseball series, MSU leads the all-time series 251-205-4, but Ole Miss holds a 99-94-2 advantage in Oxford. Former East Central High standout Konnor Pilkington (2-3, 2.75 ERA) will start Game 1 against Ole Miss' James McArthur (1-1, 1.77 ERA). Pilkington leads the SEC in strikeouts (53) and has struck out 33 in his last 20.2 innings pitched.
Spencer Price making a habit of saving Bulldogs
Spencer Price did not choose to be a closer at the beginning. The brutally honest truth is he wasn't good enough to start on his high school team. Mark Monaghan coached Price at DeSoto Central High School in Southaven and did so in an embarrassment of riches in 2015. His starting rotation featured Keegan James, currently alongside Price on Mississippi State's roster; Austin Riley, at the time a soon-to-be 41st pick in the Major League Baseball draft now in the Atlanta Braves organization; and Dallas Woolfolk, Ole Miss' closer with six saves this season. Still, Monaghan saw enough ability in Price to know he had to find a way to pitch him and had him try closing; he was introducing Price to his calling. Price fell in love with the closer role at DeSoto Central and quickly picked up the role in his one year at Meridian Community College. MSU coach Andy Cannizaro said he has commanded the same role for the Bulldogs.
Rebel newcomers confront rivalry with Mississippi State
Mike Bianco has been around the Ole Miss-Mississippi State baseball series a few times. Many of his most important players have not. When the Bulldogs (16-10, 3-3 SEC) visit the No. 19-ranked Rebels (16-9, 3-3) for three games starting tonight, Ole Miss could start five or six newcomers depending on who's pitching. More will play key roles off the bench. Bianco, in his 17th season as Ole Miss coach, is 36-32 against the in-state rival. MSU's Andy Cannizaro will be the fourth Bulldogs head coach Bianco has faced, joining Pat McMahon, Ron Polk and John Cohen.
Spring practice: Mississippi State will look to returning players to set tone up front on defense
Fourteen Southeastern Conference defensive linemen finished last season with at least 10 tackles for a loss. Mississippi State had two of them, but they both graduated. As MSU football works through spring practice without Johnathan Calvin and A.J. Jefferson, a young group of returning players has been thrust into a leadership role for five early enrollees on the defensive line. "I like our size up front. I like the way we have multiple guys we can play from that essence," MSU defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "I would say it's safe to say there's a lot of competition. We're going to give everybody a chance to make it, show their skill set and what they can do." The proven commodities are few, but Jeffery Simmons is one of them. No returning defensive lineman had more tackles (40), quarterback hurries (four), or forced fumbles (two) than he did.
West Point's Aeris Williams rises to top of Bulldogs' RB depth chart
Greg Knox was a busy, busy man last spring and fall splitting reps between six scholarship running backs. The Mississippi State running backs coach is still getting after it but his workload is a little lighter lately with just half the number of backs this spring. Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert graduated and Alec Murphy is limited due to a hand injury leaving Knox with Aeris Williams, Dontavian Lee and Nick Gibson to get spring handoffs. "That's going to help them," Knox said. "Last year, we had a lot of guys and now there are fewer guys. They need those amount of snaps they're getting this spring to help them mentally get better." Williams came on strong late in the year for the Bulldogs last fall. Williams has ascended to the top of the depth chart this spring and is working hard to keep his spot there.
Athletic director Dave Hart approaches last day at Tennessee
Media gathering for Tennessee's football practice Tuesday saw Dave Hart moving a cart full of personal effects out of the building, a reminder a transfer of leadership is imminent. Hart's last day as UT's athletic director and vice chancellor is Friday. John Currie's tenure begins Saturday. "Eventful, certainly busy and emotional,'' Hart said Wednesday, describing his final week. "It's a combination of those three things, which you would expect." Hart is retiring after five and a half years as UT's AD. Currie left Kansas State to return to the campus where he worked from 1997 to 2009 under first Doug Dickey then Mike Hamilton.
U. of South Carolina president's March Madness letter reminds students to celebrate wisely
University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides pens a letter to students as the basketball teams prepare to do battle in the Final Four: "As our University continues to shine in the national spotlight this week it's a great opportunity for us to showcase our unity of purpose and to tell the world that we not only have a championship attitude in sports but also in life. There is no need to brag or compare ourselves to others ... we have our own formula and others will see it in practice. And remember that while the national limelight in Dallas and Phoenix will shine brightly for a week, the brightest and most important light of all, is the one you carry with you every day."
Kentucky basketball fans reportedly issuing death threats, online harassment to referee
Kentucky basketball fans have reportedly been taking their resentment over their NCAA tournament loss to North Carolina to an ugly level this week. ESPN is reporting that John Higgins, the referee from the game, has been receiving death threats over the phone at home and at work, apparently from Kentucky fans. Higgins -- a decorated referee who has worked seven Final Fours -- has met with law enforcement about the threats, according to the report. Kentucky lost 75-73 Sunday to North Carolina on Luke Maye's last-second basket, which sent the Tar Heels to the Final Four. After the game, Wildcats coach John Calipari complained loudly about the officiating after his team was called for 19 fouls. Calipari's remarks seem to have set off Kentucky fans, who identified Higgins as the referee in online message boards and as the owner of an Omaha roofing company.
Stay classy Kentucky: John Calipari calls on fans to clean up their act
John Calipari called on Kentucky fans to remain "the classiest fans in the country" on Wednesday during a week in which some Wildcats fans have made life difficult for one of the referees who worked Sunday's UK loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Calipari, who is on his way to watch the Final Four in Phoenix, took to Twitter on the same day as reports that referee John Higgins received death threats. Higgins became the target of UK fans' ire after North Carolina defeated Kentucky 75-73 in the Elite Eight on Sunday. "Just landed in Houston. Before I head to Phoenix, I wanted to take this time to thank our fans for their support all season long," the UK basketball coach tweeted. "I always brag that we have the classiest fans in the country. Let's make sure we remain that way even after a tough loss."
Rick Pitino and John Calipari's $7 million connection
College basketball has two coaches earning more than $7 million in the same season for the first time since USA TODAY Sports began tracking coaches compensation. Rick Pitino of the University of Louisville and John Calipari of Kentucky are above $7.4 million in USA TODAY Sports' annual survey of the compensation paid to coaches whose schools participated in the 68-team NCAA tournament. Calipari is making more than $7.1 million in basic compensation from the university, Pitino nearly $5.1 million. Both also reported having had significant income from outside sources that was related to their employment by the schools. Pitino's non-university amount included $2.25 million that he received under a personal-services contract with Adidas, the shoe-and-apparel company that outfits Louisville's teams.
Repeal of Bathroom Law Could Be Boon for North Carolina Sports Fans
The agreement late Wednesday by North Carolina lawmakers and its governor to repeal a law that curbs legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people came at a propitious time for the state's sports fans. Several prominent sports leagues and businesses have canceled events in the state since last year because of the law. And last Friday, the N.C.A.A. not only reaffirmed its decision to remove events from the state -- "to assure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere," it said -- but also pointedly noted that decisions on where to hold championship events through 2022 would begin to be made this week. The state has hosted more N.C.A.A. men's basketball tournament games than any other, a point of pride. Both North Carolina Coach Roy Williams and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski have been outspoken in opposing the law.

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: March 30, 2017Facebook Twitter