Friday, March 31, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Around the world on Mississippi State's Drill Field
Mississippi State University junior Brent Rickman has never seen the International Fiesta -- an annual celebration of the cultures and organizations represented on campus and in Starkville -- much less participated. But Saturday afternoon, he'll be wearing the traditional garb of a man from Kyrgyzstan for the Fiesta's fashion show and hopes to meet new people from all over the world. "I'm looking forward to learning more about (Kyrgyzstan) and maybe even meeting some students that are from that country," Rickman said. "That would be great." Now in its 27th year, the International Fiesta is a multi-cultural event involving MSU student organizations as well as churches and organizations in the Starkville community. It takes place on the MSU Drill Field this year from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
 
MSU's Charles Templeton Ragtime and Jazz Festival Kicks Off with Road Show to Local Schools
Mississippi State University kicked off the 11th Annual Charles Templeton Ragtime and Jazz Festival Thursday, and one of the featured performers took his show on the road. Jeff Barnhart visited area schools, introducing students to one of America's first original musical genres -- Ragtime -- in a unique way, by providing a live soundtrack to a silent movie. The festival features concerts, seminars, and tours. It runs through the weekend.
 
Founding member of Black Voices passes away at 74
The singing may have stopped, but the legacy of one local voice is sure to ring on through the ages. Starkville said goodbye to one of the founding members of Black Voices Gospel Choir Carroll T. Washington on March 23. Black Voices is the oldest African-American organization on the campus of Mississippi State University and those who knew Washington said he remained devoted to God and the choir for 45 years. In February 1972, Washington was approached to become the choir's leading musician and he graciously accepted. At the time of his passing Thursday, Washington was the choir's oldest active member. Washington served as alumni advisor to the choir for years. Tiera Tyler, the current president of Black Voices, was impacted by Washington before and after becoming the organization's student leader.
 
Mississippi State professors empower African-American women to succeed in higher ed
Four Mississippi State University faculty members received a $57,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help create programs to help minority women better navigate the tenure and promotion processes at predominantly white institutions. That included a conference last month in Atlanta, "Preparing Black Female Faculty for Prominence, Power and Presence in the Academy." The four professors are Linda T. Coats, principal investigator for the grant who is a professor of educational leadership; Dr. Melody Fisher, co-principal investigator, who is an assistant professor of communications; Dr. C. LaShan Simpson, co-principal investigator, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering; and Dr. Pamela Scott-Bracey, co-principal investigator, assistant professor, instructional technology.
 
Out of State Avian Flu Outbreak Causes Alarm for Mississippi Poultry Industry
A recent bird flu outbreak in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia is causing a stir for some Mississippi farmers. Mark Leggett, the president of the Mississippi Poultry Association, says an influenza outbreak could negatively impact the state's poultry trade." "Countries that we ship poultry products to respond differently to that type of a notice. Some might say no products from the U.S. others might say none from Mississippi." Tom Tabler is an extension professor at Mississippi State University in the Department of Poultry Science. He urges farmers to wear clean clothes and shoes when handling their chickens to prevent spreading the disease. He, however, is hopeful that Mississippi can remain unaffected by the outbreak. "Every day that goes by and we have not had a report of a case we're a little bit better off," he said.
 
Unemployment improves in Golden Triangle and state
February's unemployment data continued its promising trend, both in the Golden Triangle and the state. Mississippi's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for February was 5.2 percent, according to data released Wednesday by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. That's 0.3 percent lower than in January and 0.9 percent lower than in February 2016. That trend was reflected locally, too. Unemployment rates in the four Golden Triangle counties continue to be at their lowest in more than 20 years, with Oktibbeha at 3.8 percent.
 
Starkville teen still in chef competition
A Starkville teen was awarded a "safe" spot on Thursday's "MasterChef Junior," so he got to sit on the sidelines and watch former contestants return to the show to try to earn their way back into the culinary competition. Last week, Mark Coblentz, the son of Robbie and Bonnie Coblentz, made the Top 10. In this week's competition, the Top 10 got a break from cooking, while six former young chefs returned and had to cut up a whole chicken and then cook various parts of said yard bird. Two of the six advanced, so now there are, once again, 12 chefs competing.
 
Oktibbeha supervisors mulling specific road improvements as bond sale approaches
Oktibbeha County supervisors are developing a preliminary list of roads they hope to improve with an upcoming 15-year, $14.5 million-maximum bond issuance. A comprehensive list identifying which county thoroughfares will be paved, reclaimed or repaired is not yet available, as many supervisors have not finished assessing their district's roads or have not yet received updated cost estimates from County Engineer Clyde Pritchard. Butler Snow attorney Sam Keyes, who is advising the county on the upcoming issuance, asked supervisors to prepare a list of potential fixes ahead of setting April 17 for the bond's sale. Once supervisors open bids and pick a financier next month, Keyes said the county could have its road improvement monies in hand by the end of May.
 
Steel Dynamics, Inc. unveils $100 million paint line at Golden Triangle facility
About 14 months since breaking ground on the project, the Golden Triangle Development LINK hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new $100 million paint line at Steel Dynamics, Inc. The Indiana-based company announced plans for the expansion, which has added more than 40 jobs to the steel mill, in May 2015. Madhu Ranade, vice president and general manager for the Columbus division's Flat Roll Group, said the project lost 53 days of construction time to rain after the Jan. 26, 2016. Gov. Phil Bryant, who spoke during the ceremony, lauded the region's work in continuing to attract and develop industry. Bryant said he could remember walking the land on which SDI sits about 12 years ago as state auditor. At the time, Bryant said, he was told the site would be a "mini" steel mill. But as he flew into the Golden Triangle on Wednesday, he looked out the airplane window and saw how much the plant has grown.
 
Mississippi businesses see potential for trade with Cuba
Biloxi businessman Mike Alise was among a delegation from Mississippi who traveled to Cuba in February to look for trade opportunities. Alise, the owner and operator of Gulf Coast Produce, said he was struck by the lack of available food on the island and the fact that Cuba has to import the most basic commodities from Vietnam and other distant sources. "I met with the minister of agriculture and he said they need food they can buy from the states," Alise said. The trade trip Alise and other business people took Feb.19-22 was arranged by the Mississippi Development Authority. It dovetailed with a visit by Sen. Thad Cochran and officials representing Mississippi ports and other interests. MDA officials said interest in doing business with Cuba is high among state businesses, including wood products, industrial machinery, construction products and shipping.
 
Leonardo may build T-X in Alabama, killing off plans for Mississippi production facility
If Leonardo DRS wins the T-X competition with its T-100 trainer, the company will manufacture the aircraft in Alabama, it announced Thursday. The Italian firm plans to build an assembly center at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, if awarded the T-X contract. Upward of $200 million will be spent on construction including buildings, infrastructure and equipment, according to a news release from the Alabama governor's office. The announcement was a blow to Meridian, Mississippi, where Leonardo had planned to assemble the T-100 when it had been partnered with its former prime contractor, Raytheon. Based on the few details released so far, Leonardo appears to be delegating more T-100 work to the Moton Field facility than it had planned to give to the Raytheon-fronted Meridian location.
 
Speaker to form committee to study lottery
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, viewed as the most powerful obstacle to enacting a lottery in Mississippi, said Thursday he would form a committee to study the issue. Gunn made his comments in his office Thursday as he answered questions from reporters about the 2017 legislative session. "I am open to looking at it," Gunn said. "I do not think it will be the golden egg everybody thinks it is. We can have an exhaustive conversation about that." House Gaming Chair Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, would lead the committee, which Gunn said he plans to form soon. It would include not only members of the House, but non-legislators. The momentum for a lottery has been growing in Mississippi.
 
Lottery? Mississippi House leader setting group to study it
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn says he will appoint a committee to study the pros and cons of creating a state lottery. The Republican from Clinton is a leader in his Baptist church and has long opposed the expansion of gambling in Mississippi, including a lottery. But on Thursday, Gunn told reporters that he wants to see numbers evaluating how a lottery could affect Mississippi's economy. "I'm open to looking at it. I do not think it's going to be the golden egg that everybody thinks that it is," Gunn said during a news conference a day after the 2017 legislative session ended.
 
Speaker Philip Gunn: Legislature 'stays within our means'
House Speaker Philip Gunn applauded the Legislature on Thursday for its work this session, focusing on a budget that "stays within our means." The Clinton Republican told reporters he was pleased overall with the Legislature's work, noting the $6 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2018 does exactly what Republicans campaign on: controlled spending and reducing the size of government. "The budget that we brought forward this week I think is a responsible budget, it does only spend the money that we have to spend," Gunn said. Democratic leaders in the Legislature reported that they had better communication with Republican leaders, but raised concerns about their party's real input into the legislation. Two areas of clear contention were gender pay equity and Medicaid expansion, they said.
 
DeSoto schools losing another $500,000 from Mississippi
DeSoto County school leaders learned Wednesday the district will lose more than a half million dollars in state funding expected for the current school year, putting a further strain on a budget slashed by more than $700,000 in February. Superintendent Cory Uselton said the district, Mississippi's largest, learned from Gov. Phil Bryant's office that a fourth round of state budget cuts for fiscal 2017 would mean $8.6 million less than expected for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which provides state funding to local school districts. The reduction translates to a loss of $551,619 that the DeSoto district will receive in payments from the state beginning in April for the remainder of the fiscal year through June 30. The loss comes on the heels of a $718,701 loss for the DeSoto district as the result of budget reductions announced in February.
 
Activist Pledges to Publish Congress' Browsing History
The creator of the popular and crass card game Cards Against Humanity pledges to let Congress feel the effects of its vote to repeal a regulation that will allow Internet providers to sell users' browsing history. The House voted on Tuesday to kill Obama administration regulations that required Internet service providers to get customers' explicit permission before it could sell their browsing history to advertisers and other third parties. Cards Against Humanity co-founder Max Temkin tweeted with a little salty language that he would buy the browser histories of "every congressman and congressional aide" and share it online.
 
Trump Leaves Science Jobs Vacant, Troubling Critics
On the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the staff of the White House chief technology officer has been virtually deleted, down from 24 members before the election to, by Friday, only one. Scores of departures by scientists and Silicon Valley technology experts who advised Mr. Trump's predecessor have all but wiped out the larger White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Mr. Trump has not yet named his top advisers on technology or science, and so far, has made just one hire: Michael Kratsios, the former chief of staff for Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley investor and one of the president's wealthiest supporters, as the deputy chief technology officer. Critics see the empty offices as part of a devaluation of science throughout the Trump administration
 
Conservatives fear EPA chief going soft on climate science
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing heavy pressure from conservatives to take on the science of climate change. Undoing the 2009 endangerment finding -- the Obama administration's conclusion that greenhouse gases are a threat and can be regulated -- would make it easier for EPA chief Scott Pruitt to reverse President Obama's climate agenda. That's because it would remove the legal obligation under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide, removing a key tool that environmentalists are counting on as they try to keep Obama's policies like the Clean Power Plan in place. But while Pruitt has expressed skepticism of the scientific consensus that greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate change, repealing or changing the endangerment finding would be a significant lift, according to experts and supporters of climate policies, with the vast majority of scientific data working against Pruitt.
 
Disabled, or just desperate? Rural Americans turn to disability as jobs dry up
Between 1996 and 2015, the number of working-age adults receiving disability climbed from 7.7 million to 13 million. The federal government this year will spend an estimated $192 billion on disability payments, more than the combined total for food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies and unemployment assistance. The rise in disability has emerged as yet another indicator of a widening political, cultural and economic chasm between urban and rural America. Across large swaths of the country, disability has become a force that has reshaped scores of mostly white, almost exclusively rural communities, where as many as one-third of working-age adults live on monthly disability checks, according to a Washington Post analysis of Social Security Administration statistics. Rural America experienced the most rapid increase in disability rates over the past decade, the analysis found.
 
I-85 Bridge Collapse In Atlanta Brings Headache To 250,000 Drivers A Day
Transportation officials in Georgia are scrambling to cope with a crisis, after a huge fire caused a bridge on Interstate 85 to collapse in Atlanta on Thursday night. Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency, and with the heavily used road closed in both directions, drivers are being told to find other options -- from detours to mass transit. The shutdown affects a roughly three-mile portion of I-85, blocking a major artery that runs through the heart of Atlanta. Friday morning, officials said they don't yet know what caused the fire or how long repairs will take. Officials say no injuries were reported due to the fire. Police had cleared the interstate before part of the overpass failed catastrophically. The road normally carries some 250,000 vehicles a day.
 
Sexual assault reported early Friday morning on campus, U. of Mississippi Police say
The University Police Department reported a sexual assault early Friday morning on campus. The brief said the assault occurred between midnight and 1 a.m. in the area of Fraternity Row. The only description of the suspected violator is a white male. Less than a week ago, another sexual assault was reported in the area of Fraternity Row late Friday night. Officers ask that anyone with information contact UPD at 662-915-4911.
 
USM recruiters use latest rankings to attract students
University of Southern Miss officials say they will use the latest favorable rankings given to the school as they push to attract new students. BestColleges.com has ranked Southern Miss as the No.1 public university in the state for online education and No. 2 for the overall best four-year public university in Mississippi. The school came in third behind private institutions Mississippi College and William Carey University for online education and fourth for best overall education behind Mississippi College, Millsaps and Mississippi State. Kate Howard, dean of admissions and assistant vice president, said she will use the rankings as she recruits students. "We certainly share these rankings with our prospective student community as well as the community at large," she said in an email. Steven Moser, provost and senior vice president, said good rankings are always a plus, but the university cannot rely on them alone.
 
Criminal justice forum held at USM
A criminal justice forum was held at Southern Miss Thursday, focusing on the challenges of the state penitentiary. The forum was called "Justice in the Mississippi State Penitentiary: Past Reflections, Present Challenges and Future Directions." State Sen. Willie Simmons was among the panelist on the forum. He spoke about the current conditions in Mississippi's prison system. Simmons said there are many challenges that must be addressed. He said funding is one of the greatest concerns. Simmons feels that it is important that officials find ways to reduce crime and repeat offenders.
 
At Delta State, panel highlights challenges, solutions to public education
Past issues that hampered education in Mississippi provide a guidepost for how to improve the state's education system, panelists said this week at Delta State University. Stronger administrators and teachers, courses designed to help students achieve, a recognition of historical contributions of communities of color and aggressive steps to truly provide equal opportunity were among solutions offered. The comments came at Delta State University's fourth annual Winning the Race conference on Monday and Tuesday, which had a theme of Advancing Education in the Mississippi Delta.
 
Number of mumps cases in Louisiana rises to 30, centered on college campuses
The number of mumps cases in Louisiana is up to 30, prompting warnings from college administrators and state health officials. Of the cases reported statewide as of Wednesday, more than two dozen are clustered at LSU in Baton Rouge, officials said. Two others have been reported at Loyola University in New Orleans. The final two cases are from Baton Rouge and the Alexandria area, though not at colleges. While it's unclear what caused Louisiana's outbreak, it's not unusual for mumps to pop up first among college students, who live and eat in close quarters, said Dr. Frank Welch, immunization director at the state Department of Health. Nearby Arkansas has been hit particularly hard this year, with more than 2,900 cases reported there as of Wednesday.
 
Man charged with sexual battery in U. of Florida parking garage
A former middle school basketball coach accused of sexually battering a woman was arrested Wednesday by University of Florida police. Daniel Dennard Medley, 37, of 1225 SE 12th Terrace, was charged with sexual battery in connection with an incident Tuesday in a UF parking garage, according to an arrest report. The woman was leaving the Shands Medical Plaza at 2000 Archer Road when she saw Medley leaving at the same time. Police reported she knew him because he was a friend of her father and had been a middle school basketball coach. Medley reportedly told the woman he had some information for her in his SUV. They got inside, where the sexual battery occurred. She pushed and kicked him away, ran her to car and left. She later reported the incident to law enforcement.
 
Disaster exercise helps Texas A&M med students develop skills for mass casualty scenarios
Lexie Valadez wasn't pregnant, but she gave birth to a beautiful baby doll on Thursday morning. "I was a laboring mother today. I had a baby," said the Texas A&M University College of Nursing senior. Valadez was playing a role in A&M's ninth annual Disaster Day, a mass casualty disaster training exercise that aims to teach students vital skills needed to respond to emergency situations. More than 300 students from A&M's nursing and medical schools, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences participated in the event, and around 400 community members played the role of survivors. The scenario -- unknown to the students until 9:30 a.m. Thursday -- was that a Category 5 hurricane had hit Houston, turning the Central Baptist Church into an emergency medical response unit. For the next few hours, students would treat hundreds of survivors who had been left in the faux hurricane's wake.
 
Texas A&M's Student Government Association responds to recent election criticism
Leaders in Texas A&M's Student Government Association responded to recent criticism of the university's student body president election Thursday, seeking to clarify the process behind the system. After initially receiving more votes in the February election for student body president, candidate Robert McIntosh was ultimately disqualified over campaign expenses -- leaving runner-up Bobby Brooks, an openly gay A&M student, the winner. Before the student-led panel at Texas A&M made its election night ruling in February, the final vote count had McIntosh with 51 percent compared to his closest opponent, Brooks at 49 percent, according to SGA documents. The difference between the two was 262 ballots in the election that drew more than 12,100 students to vote. The controversial election received national attention last week after Secretary of Energy, former Texas governor and class of '72 A&M graduate Rick Perry, wrote a column in the Houston Chronicle protesting McIntosh's disqualification.
 
U. of Missouri, private businesses kick in largest share to attract United Airlines to airport
Private businesses and the University of Missouri are the second largest contributors to a fund that is enticing United Airlines to add flights to the Columbia Regional Airport. United Airlines and city officials announced that starting Aug. 1 the airline is bringing a daily flight to Denver International Airport and twice-daily flights to Chicago O'Hare International Airport to the Columbia Regional Airport. The company was only willing to bring the flights to the airport if it limited its financial risk through a revenue guarantee fund, according to an agreement presented to the Boone County Commission on Thursday. The Central Missouri Air Service fund guarantees revenue to the airline of up to $600,000 in its first year of operation if revenues fall short because of empty seats. MU spokesman Christian Basi said in an email that the university has interest in the airport's success as its researchers and entrepreneurs benefit from airport services.
 
IRS tool for financial aid applicants could be down until next aid cycle
The Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday that an important online tool for financial aid applicants could be down for months while protections are added to protect the security of users. That means a more time-consuming process for students and their families completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and, potentially, a more burdensome verification process after students submit the application. The impact of the IRS data retrieval tool's continued outage will extend far beyond first-time college students, affecting current students renewing the FAFSA as well as student loan borrowers seeking to enroll in or update information for income-driven repayment plans.
 
After a Student Dies, Penn State Bans a Fraternity and Liquor at All Greek Houses
Pennsylvania State University on Thursday permanently banned a fraternity after a student died, and announced a sweeping set of measures designed to crack down on what officials described as "growing evidence of problems" related to hazing, alcohol abuse, and drug use in Greek life. The actions included a ban on hard liquor at all fraternities. The university shut down Beta Theta Pi, the fraternity where Timothy Piazza, 19, fell down a set of stairs last month and died the next morning. Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs at Penn State, didn't mince words in an interview with The Chronicle: "Enough is enough." Mr. Piazza's death from injuries suffered at the fraternity represented a failure of the self-governance system that is a hallmark of Greek life nationwide, Mr. Sims said.
 
The irony of paying lawmakers for a special session
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall writes: "Lawmakers called it quits Wednesday and ended the 2017 legislative session with anger and accusations everywhere, but taxpayers are who should be angry because the Legislature failed to complete its work. Gov. Phil Bryant will have to call a special session before July 1 so the Legislature can pass budgets for the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the office of attorney general. If I may, I would like to offer one more item for Bryant to add to his call for an extraordinary session of the Mississippi Legislature: a bill that would remove all forms of payment to state lawmakers for special sessions called in whole or in part to handle legislative business that should have been addressed during the preceding legislative session."


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State's Final Four trip against UConn is an opportunity
If everything went according to Mississippi State's plan on its quest for a national title this season, the Bulldogs knew a matchup against UConn would be inevitable at some point along the way. That's why Vic Schaefer constantly reminded himself of last year, when UConn beat the Bulldogs 98-38 in the Sweet 16. It's why he brought up the game to his players throughout the season whenever he thought was necessary. It's why they used the experience as a source of motivation. When the Bulldogs play the Huskies in a Final Four semifinal on Friday (9 p.m., ESPN), the Bulldogs would prefer to win, snap UConn's 111-game winning streak and advance to the national championship game. The biggest stage the Bulldogs have ever played on provides both an opportunity to add to their historic run with an epic upset and a chance to measure the program's growth.
 
Revenge in Big D? Bulldogs ready for another shot at Huskies
March 26, 2016 is a day Vic Schaefer would like to forget but likely never will. That was the day Schaefer's Mississippi State squad was obliterated 98-38 by eventual national champion Connecticut in the Sweet 16, ending what was then the most successful season in program history. Over the last year, the Bulldogs have constantly been reminded of that 60-point loss from offseason conditioning all the way through their current NCAA Tournament run. No. 7 MSU (33-4) will have the opportunity to see just how far it has come since that day when it meets the top-ranked Huskies in the Final Four tonight at 9 on ESPN2. "This is not the same Mississippi State team we played," said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. "The turnaround they've made offensively has been remarkable. They're still the same defensive team that they were, and we're not the same team by any stretch of the imagination."
 
Mississippi State looks to end UConn's run in Final Four
Vic Schaefer doesn't want his players to forget last season's humiliating 60-point loss to UConn in the NCAA Tournament. The Mississippi State Bulldogs have had a constant reminder of that defeat all season long, with the number 60 written on the window of the team's weight room. "It's annoying, honestly. It's annoying to see that 60," point guard Morgan William said. "Like, dang, we got beat by 60. It's a pride thing, too. Getting beat by 60, that's personal." The Bulldogs will get a chance at redemption when they play UConn in the national semifinals Friday night. It's Mississippi State's first appearance in the Final Four, while the Huskies are here for the 10th consecutive year.
 
Coast pair soaking in Mississippi State's run to Women's Final Four
Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer has a pretty straightforward message for his players ahead of Friday's showdown against juggernaut UConn: Don't get caught up in the excitement of reaching the program's first Final Four. Remain focused. His players seem to have taken the message to heart. MSU sophomore reserve Jazzmun Holmes, a former Harrison Central standout, said last year's embarrassing 98-38 loss to the Huskies (36-0) in the Sweet 16 still stings. Holmes isn't promising anything except a better effort at 8:30 p.m. Friday when the Bulldogs (33-4) get a shot at revenge. Holmes and former West Harrison standout Ameshya Williams have embraced their roles this season. They combine for less than 20 minutes a night but have made the most of their opportunities.
 
Victoria Vivians' journey from Forest to Final Four
At 12 years old, Tyler Carson estimates that he has attended at least 50 of Victoria Vivians' games. The Forest resident has traveled with his parents or relatives to places such as Little Rock, Arkansas, and Greenville, South Carolina, to watch the Mississippi State star junior guard. Carson first looked up to Vivians when he was in the first grade and she was setting state records at Scott Central, a 2A school in Forest, because "Tori would drop 60 in a game," he said. Since Vivians left the town for Starkville in 2014, Carson's admiration has only grown. Carson isn't the only one idolizing Vivians in Forest, a rural town of less than 6,000 people. That's especially true this week, as Mississippi State's leading scorer prepares to lead the Bulldogs into the Final Four on Friday against No. 1 seed UConn.
 
Tears dry, Mississippi State guard still plays for late stepdad
Morgan William figures the tears are finished flowing after dedicating a brilliant performance to her late stepfather when the Mississippi State women advanced to their first Final Four. That doesn't mean the diminutive point guard has stopped playing for the man she credits with getting her involved in basketball when she was 3. "I'm good now," William said Thursday, the eve of a national semifinal matchup with top-ranked UConn. "I'm not going to say I forgot about it. I gotta be kind of businesslike, too. Just go play. So that's what I'm going to do." After scoring a career-high 41 points in a victory that spoiled Baylor's chance to play in the Final Four just 100 miles from its Waco campus, William crumbled in tears during a national TV interview. The 94-85 overtime win in Oklahoma City came a day after the third anniversary of Donnie Rory's death. William did her best to try to explain all that.
 
Mississippi State earns shot at redemption tonight
The Dispatch's Adam Minichino writes: "Vic Schaefer and his Mississippi State women's basketball players have been asked about Connecticut for the past three days. Schaefer and the Bulldogs couldn't forget or move past their 98-38 loss to the eventual national champion if they wanted to. Schaefer has called the loss -- the biggest in the history of the regional semifinals -- 'embarrassing' and 'humbling.' His players have said they have learned how to play every possession at a faster pace and with a higher sense of focus. The time for talking is over."
 
Don't mess with State's Texans
Sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: "This is Mississippi State's first appearance in the NCAA Women's Final Four, but playing here in Texas is like homecoming for a bunch of the Lady Bulldogs. There is a definite Lone Star State influence on the most accomplished Mississippi basketball team in NCAA Division I history. Start with Vic Schaefer, the 56-year-old coach, who hails from Austin and has played and coached all over the state. 'I'm a Texas boy, born and raised here,' Schaefer said Thursday afternoon at the Final Four press conference. 'I have so many colleagues and friends that are high school coaches in the state.' Texans out-number Mississippians four to three on the State roster. And all four Texans are key members of Vic Schaefer's rotation: Dominique Dillingham, Teaira McGowan, Blair Schaefer and Ketara Chapel. Dillingham and Chapel are seniors, while Schaefer is a junior and McGowan a sophomore."
 
No surprise, really, in either Final Four trip
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Gene Phelps writes: "It took 21 years, but Mississippi State basketball is back in the Final Four. In 1996, the men's team played in New York -- technically it was in Jersey -- but the Big Apple was the destination. The tournament logo that season -- emblazoned on caps, T-shirts, even at center court -- featured the Statue of Liberty. There's no such confusion this week about the Final Four site for Mississippi State's Lady Bulldogs. The event's official logo features a large star -- one worn quite well this past NFL season by a Cowboy with MSU connections named Dak -- and the Dallas downtown skyline. ...These Lady Bulldogs started the season 20-0 and have an all-time, school-best 33-4 record after their quarterfinals victory. You see, this is not the same Big Dance newcomer UConn smoked 98-38 last season."
 
You're about to play U-Conn. in the women's Final Four. This is what you tell yourself.
Sports columnist Sally Jenkins writes in the Washington Post: "What do you tell yourself, when you have to play the colossus Connecticut? ...Maybe it will all be different next time. Maybe this U-Conn. team (36-0) will be the vulnerable or complacent one, after piling up a record 111 straight victories, and maybe you will be ones who finally knock them off in the big one. At least, that's the approach Mississippi State (33-4) is taking on the eve of the women's NCAA Final Four, and why not? ...You tell yourself that this time you will know what to do better. How to handle the pressure of the moment, the pressure they bring every time up the court and pressure of that name across their chests. You tell yourself it's not something to dread; rather, it's an opportunity."
 
Mississippi State scores in ninth inning to take baseball win at Ole Miss
Closer Spencer Price came in to record a pair of strikeouts as Mississippi State beat Ole Miss 4-3 in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference baseball series Thursday night at Oxford-University Stadium. The Bulldogs (17-10 overall, 4-3 SEC) won their fifth straight game overall and fourth straight conference game by rallying from a 3-0 deficit. MSU has come from behind to win 10 times this season. "What a win this was," MSU head coach Andy Cannizaro said. "We talk all the time about playing nine full innings of baseball. We did a lot of things great there at the end of the game. Cole Gordon had a great hit to tie the game. The bullpen was great. Riley Self and Spencer Price were incredible. This win feels like two wins. It was a team win and a great way to start the series."
 
Mississippi State erases three-run deficit, takes opener from Ole Miss
Cole Gordon's approach certainly wasn't to strike out with the potential go-ahead run on third and two outs in ninth inning. Ole Miss' Dallas Woolfolk did, indeed, strike Gordon out, which was like claiming the battle but Mississippi State took the war Thursday night. Woolfolk's pitch got by catcher Cooper Johnson for a passed ball, which allowed Gordon to reach first and the Bulldogs' Jake Mangum to score from third for the eventual game-winning run in Mississippi State's 4-3 victory over the Rebels at Swayze Field. "I was trying to stay on the fastball. He threw me that last one and it had a little sink to it," Gordon said. "The last couple (didn't). I guess the catcher wasn't ready for it. If you're going to strike out, I guess that's the way to do it. That has a little more excitement to it."
 
Bulldogs rally late to win series opener at Ole Miss
Mississippi State rallied from three runs back to tie the game in the seventh then made the key pitches to beat No. 19 Ole Miss 4-3 before 8,521 at Swayze Field on Thursday. MSU's Jake Mangum, who doubled with one out in the ninth, scored the winning run with two outs when Ole Miss catcher Cooper Johnson couldn't catch a swinging third strike with Cole Gordon at the plate. Dallas Woolfolk had hit 95 and 96 on the gun to get Gordon in a hole. It was clutch hitting earlier against the Rebels' bullpen that put the Bulldogs in position to clinch the SEC series tonight in Game 2. First pitch is 6:30.
 
Mississippi State rallies past Ole Miss in series opener
A passed ball on a strikeout in the top of the ninth inning allowed Mississippi State to complete a three-run rally Thursday, beating Ole Miss 4-3 at Oxford University Stadium. The rivals meet again at 6 p.m. Friday. The three-game series concludes Saturday with a 1:30 p.m. start. The Bulldogs (17-10, 4-3) trailed by as many as three runs through the fifth inning but began to chip away at Ole Miss' lead in the seventh. Tied 3-3 in the ninth, the Bulldogs put runners on the corners with two outs against Dallas Woolfolk. The Ole Miss closer looked like he had struck out Cole Gordon, but the ball got past catcher Cooper Johnson, allowing Jake Mangum to score the go-ahead run.
 
Ole Miss loses late lead, drops series opener to Mississippi State
Ole Miss' early lead against its in-state rival turned into a teamwide breakdown late Thursday night. The Rebels took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning, but Mississippi State completed a rally with some help from Ole Miss to win the series opener, 4-3, at Swayze Field. The Bulldogs (17-10, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) got to Ole Miss' bullpen for three two-out runs in the frame, and it stayed tied until the top of the ninth when Dallas Woolfolk appeared to strand runners at the corners with a strikeout of Cole Gordon, but the ball got past catcher Cooper Johnson to the backstop, allowing Jake Mangum to sprint home with the go-ahead run. "He just missed it," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said when asked if Johnson got crossed up on signals.
 
Cory Thomas grows into leadership role for Mississippi State defensive line
Cory Thomas is the veteran of Mississippi State football's defensive line room now. It's the natural progression of things -- one that MSU coach Dan Mullen often reminds his players of -- that younger players make their improvements in large, easily noticeable chunks, while older players with those days behind them get better in minuscule increments. Such is the case for Thomas as he prepares for his junior season, and he manages it meticulously. "Before I go out, I write something in my notebook, what I want to work on that day," Thomas said. "(Defensive line coach Brian) Baker tells me something that I did bad in in that practice and I'll write it down. I start from there." The culmination of it all is a transcendent spring to date, on in which Baker is seeing, "the light has come on a little bit."
 
Reports: Gulfport's Jonathan Holder, a former Mississippi State standout, makes Yankees' Opening Day roster
It doesn't appear Jonathan Holder will have to return his iconic pinstripes anytime soon. The Yankees announced their Opening Day roster prior to Thursday's spring training game and according to multiple reports the former Gulfport standout and Mississippi State Bulldog has secured one of the team's final bullpen spots. Entering Thursday's final spring training game in Florida for the Bronx Bombers, Holder had made a strong case to stick with New York. Although Holder surrendered four runs in 1 2/3 innings in his second spring training appearance Feb. 28, he settled down and did not surrender another run the rest of camp. Prior to Thursday's game, Holder boasted a 3.00 ERA with nine strikeouts and a paltry 0.58 WHIP in 12 innings. He had also surrendered seven runs without issuing a walk.
 
Hugh Freeze, Dan Mullen enjoy spring break on golf course
With spring practice in its latter stages, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen took a break on the golf course. Freeze and Mullen attracted some of the biggest applause of the day as they teed off Thursday morning at the C Spire Pro-Am. The event has become an annual trip to the Coast for the Magnolia State's two SEC football coaches, taking the course at Fallen Oak the day before the start of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, a PGA Tour Champions tournament. Thursday's event provided a nice distraction for Freeze, who has endured a tough offseason. His team will go through a self-imposed postseason ban for 2017. The program received a new NCAA notice of allegations in February that accused the program of lack of institutional control and Freeze failed to monitor his coaching staff.
 
Athletics outplays NRA; Arkansas House OKs guns-law pullback
For one bill moving through the Arkansas Legislature, the National Rifle Association met a competitor that it could not best: college athletics. Lawmakers in the House voted Thursday to prohibit concealed weapons at collegiate sporting events, approving a bill that would dial back a gun law signed a week ago that the NRA had deemed its top legislative priority for the year. The House voted 71-20 on Senate Bill 724, sending it back to the Senate to agree on an amendment. The new law gained national attention after Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference -- the top-tier collegiate sports league in which the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Razorbacks compete -- released a statement earlier this week. In it, he opposed the law and said it could affect scheduling and other aspects of the athletic program if guns were allowed into sporting events.
 
U. of Alabama officials: Guns, sports venues don't mix
With controversy stirred by legislation in Arkansas, the University of Alabama on Thursday reiterated its opposition to weapons inside athletic venues and on campus because of safety concerns. "At the University of Alabama, we take seriously the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans. We believe allowing weapons inside athletic venues would increase safety concerns," UA officials said in a released statement. The statement follows the latest round of bills by Alabama lawmakers that include provisions to permit weapons on campus and regional attention on the topic of firearms and universities following a law passed in Arkansas this month allowing guns in many public places, including collegiate athletic venues. Generally, possession of firearms by faculty, staff, students and visitors is forbidden on the UA campus.
 
Gamecocks only teams to showcase Under Armour in Final Four
Legions of Gamecock basketball fans aren't the only ones the University of South Carolina has thrust into the national basketball championship limelight. Under Armour, one of the country's major up-and-coming sports apparel companies, will have its debut in the men's Final Four, starting Friday. The women, also sporting UA from head to toe, as do the men, made the Final Four in 2015 and this season. The rest of the teams competing for the men's NCAA national championship -- Gonzaga, Oregon and North Carolina -- all are sponsored by elite sports apparel manufacturer, Nike. USC has a 10-year, $71.5 million deal with Under Armour, which features a $2 million signing bonus and increases across the life of the contract. South Carolina enjoys one of the top 10 most lucrative apparel contracts in college athletics, according to recent business reports.
 
New wrinkles for Georgia's G-Day spring game but no musical act this time
Georgia will skip hiring a musical act this time for its April 22 spring game. A wrinkle this year will be SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw wired for sound as the head referee while wearing a camera for the TV broadcast. Coach Kirby Smart has encouraged fans to turn out again without repeating his call for a 93K Day like he did for G-Day last year. Rap star Ludacris was a late addition in 2016 but athletic director Greg McGarity later apologized after fallout from revelations that the artist's rider included alcohol and condoms. McGarity showed a sense of humor about it Thursday when asked if Georgia would pass on lining up a musical entertainer this year. "Unless you want to sing solo at halftime," he said in a text message.
 
UNC Not Alone in Dealing With Long-Running NCAA Probes
It's been nearly two years since the NCAA first filed charges tied to North Carolina's long-running academic scandal yet the case has yet to reach the hearing that ultimately leads to a ruling and long-awaited resolution. It's just another example of how these investigations can take winding roads full of procedural potholes, delays and even backpedaling in a process that can mire schools in damaging uncertainty. Perhaps it's a sign of how long this case has lingered -- or fatigue with it -- that the topic didn't come up during NCAA President Mark Emmert's annual news conference at the Final Four on Thursday, unlike last year. The NCAA began a long-running investigation of the University of Mississippi in 2012 after a school probe discovered academic and recruiting misconduct involving the women's basketball program. Ole Miss later acknowledged the investigation had spread to the football, and track and field programs. While the women's basketball and track and field portion of the case was settled last year, the football case is pending with the program facing 21 violations in a case that could easily drag into 2018.
 
ESPN Has Seen the Future of TV and They're Not Really Into It
The main SportsCenter studio at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., is a blue-lit box. The ceiling is as high as a cathedral's, and there's enough floor space to land a helicopter. Screens are everywhere. ESPN broke ground on this $175 million, 194,000-square-foot facility, called Digital Center 2, in 2011. It was billed by executives as "future-proof," capable of adapting to any possible change in the way people watch sports. At the time, ESPN looked indestructible. Five years later the network's profits are shrinking, and the 10,000-square-foot SportsCenter studio has already begun to look like a relic. ESPN has lost more than 12 million subscribers since 2011, according to Nielsen, and the viewership erosion seems to be accelerating.



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