Tuesday, May 2, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
More Peanuts Planted Means More Money for Mississippi Farmers
Farmers in Mississippi are looking to make more money by planting more peanuts this year. That's according to ag experts at Mississippi State University. As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, higher prices and more acres planted mean good news. Mississippi State University Extension Service predicts peanuts planted could reach 50,000 acres this year. That's 10,000 acres more than 2016. Jason Sarver is the peanut expert at MSU. He says wholesale prices are $40 more per ton this year over last. "The peanuts -- relative to any other market we have -- look favorable from an economics perspective. Then on top of that, our growers that have grown peanuts have found that rotating back to their cotton or corn after peanuts, they're growing better crops." Unlike other crops, peanut farmers contract to sell their harvest to peanut buyers before the crop is planted in the spring. This limits the risk for the farmer. Mississippi farmers had $7.5 billion in sales last year, and $27 million was from peanuts.
AUVSI 2017: Homeland Security increases UAV focus
Mississippi State University will be the new base of operations for small UAS, to be known as the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Demonstration Range Facility. The demonstration facility is set to begin operations in autumn of 2017; a Mississippi State-led partnership will oversee the initiative. The new facility will support US Homeland Security operations and training by providing UAS flight and exercise support facilities that will sustenance operational evaluation of UAS in a variety of applications and scenarios. "Mississippi has a number of unique assets that facilitate unmanned aircraft test flights that aren't found in many other places, and we can fly year round," said Dallas Brooks, director of MSU's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. Brooks, who will lead the demonstration range team, added: "Unmanned aircraft provide unmatched data that first responders and homeland defence agencies can use to make faster and better decisions across a range of critical situations."
Small Drones Safer Near People than Previously Thought
Small drones are safer to operate near people than originally thought, according to research results presented by the director of the Rotorcraft Systems Engineering and Simulation Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville to members of the U.S. Congress and industry representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration Drone Advisory Council. UAH served as the principal investigator for the effort, along with four other universities within the FAA ASSURE program. Those universities are Mississippi State University, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University.
Oktibbeha supervisors approve hospital RFP
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a RFP (request for proposals) for the possible sale or lease of Oktibbeha County Hospital Monday. The 3-2 vote followed a presentation of the document by Butler Snow attorney Johnny Healy and hospital consultant Ted Woodrell. District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery and District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard, both longtime opponents of an OCH sale or lease, voted no. Woodrell said he had reached out to OCH CEO Richard Hilton to offer him input in the RFP, but Hilton declined. Along with the RFP, the board approved a resolution for the possible sale or lease of OCH. The presentation was done in open session, after a vote by District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller to discuss the need for an executive session failed.
Academy reveals June opening date for Starkville store
The opening date for Starkville's Academy Sports+Outdoors on Highway 12 has been set and is posted to the company's corporate website. Academy Sports+Outdoors Communication Specialist Karly Makovy said the grand opening of the new Starkville location will be on June 2. Makovy said, throughout the upcoming month, Academy will be adding details of events, giveaways, and appearances that might take place during the opening event. Further details can be found on the webpage for the Starkville store.
Merger makes Baptist hospital systems largest in state
Baptist Memorial Health Care and Mississippi Baptist leaders joined forces Monday to celebrate the merger of the two systems. "It will really draw on the best of both," said Jason Little, president and chief executive officer of Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Health Care. Together, Baptist is now the largest health system in Mississippi and among the largest not-for-profit systems in the country in terms of number of hospitals. It is the fourth largest employer in Mississippi. When the new Baptist Memorial Hospital in West Memphis is completed next year, the system will have 22 hospitals, with 10 in Mississippi, 10 in Tennessee and two in Arkansas. In Northeast Mississippi, the system includes hospitals in Oxford, Booneville, New Albany, Calhoun City and Columbus.
Durant may lack power for days after Sunday storm
A small Mississippi town clobbered by an apparent tornado during fierce weekend storms could be without power for days, authorities said Monday. More than 11,000 customers around the state remained without power as of Monday afternoon. And in hard-hit Durant, Mayor Tasha Davis said it could be up to a week until a substation can be repaired that supplies power to the 900 customers of the city-owned electrical system. The town of 2,700, about 60 miles north of Jackson, suffered some of the worst damage from Sunday's storms as they crossed the state. National Weather Service surveyors have already confirmed seven tornadoes in Mississippi, and Gov. Phil Bryant said the total could rise to as many as 20. Durant residents picked through debris Monday for anything salvageable. Basketball players from Holmes Community College were stacking cinderblocks outside a store.
Mississippi cities holding party primaries for mayor
Mississippi's top elections official is predicting low voter turnout for municipal party primaries. Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday for primaries that will narrow the list of candidates for mayor in several cities. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Monday that a small number of absentee ballots have been cast. "I have tried to cajole or just embarrass people to come and vote, and I'm not being successful," Hosemann, a Republican, said during a forum sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government. Primary runoffs are May 16. The general election is June 6, and new terms begin July 1. In Starkville, the winner of the Democratic primary will win the open seat. The candidates are Johnny Moore, who's an attorney; Damion Poe, a personnel director; and Lynn Spruill, a former chief administrative officer for the city.
SoS Delbert Hosemann touts importance of education
Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann voiced support for both a lottery and the collection of the 7 percent tax on internet sales with the revenue being directed toward education and transportation. Hosemann, in his third term as secretary of state, made the comments Monday at the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government/capitol press corps luncheon in Jackson. "Ninety-four percent of people go to public schools," Hosemann said. "If public schools don't succeed, we don't have anything to sell other than being a beautiful state." Hosemann cited the internet sales tax and lottery when asked during the meeting his opinion of increasing the tax on gasoline to provide for additional funds for transportation needs. Increasing the gasoline tax has been advocated for by some to fund what many groups, including the Mississippi Economic Council, have said is a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure system in the state.
Black lawmakers boycott conference over state flag
The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus announced Monday it will skip the Southern Legislative Conference, which will be held this year in Biloxi, because of the state flag. The 51 members of the black caucus said they would boycott this year's conference because Mississippi leaders have failed to address changing the state flag, which is the last in the country containing the Confederate battle emblem. The caucus expressed disappointment with House Speaker Philip Gunn and the Southern Legislative Conference for choosing to host its conference in Mississippi because of the flag. The Southern Legislative Conference, chaired this year by Gunn, is a coalition of state legislators who meet annually to discuss policy work inside statehouses across the South.
Mental Health Department to reduce workforce by 650
The Mississippi Department of Mental Health will reduce its workforce by 650 by June 30, 2018, to cope with state budget cuts. The reduction in employees will be made through layoffs, not filling vacant positions or replacing employees who retire or leave the department. The Mental Health board met late last month and approved the reduction, which will include laying off roughly 125 employees. Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, said Mental Health was cut $8 million last year. During a debate in the Legislature on the final funding bill for the department, Miles urged lawmakers not to cut its budget. "They need some heavenly love," Miles said of Mental Health. House Appropriations Chairman John Read, R-Gautier, said he has never seen the state in such a budget crunch in his time in the Legislature.
Cochran says spending bill has billions for Mississippi shipbuilding, research
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., on Monday gave his support to a more than 1,600-page bill that would fund the government through Sept. 30. Cochran's office said in a press release that the omnibus appropriations legislation is a package of 11 regular appropriations bills for the rest of fiscal year, as well as additional funding sought by the Trump administration for national defense and border security. According to Cochran's office, the highlights for Mississippi include: $18 million in Homeland Security funding for small unmanned aircraft systems research and testing. These activities will take place in Mississippi, which was recently designated as the DHS's drone demonstration test range. $10 million in U.S. Department of Transportation funding for the FAA Unmanned Aerial Systems Center of Excellence, which is run by a Mississippi State University-led consortium. $222 million, $45 million above the budget request, for the Army high-performance computing modernization program. These funds are critical for the Vicksburg-based U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and would directly impact the Mississippi State high-performance computing program.
New USDA secretary announces rollback of Obama-era nutrition standards for school lunches
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Monday that he would roll back part of former First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiative: stricter nutritional standards for school lunches. Perdue, who became head of the agency last week, announced he would be relaxing guidelines and providing greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for schools' meal programs. "This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals," Perdue said during a visit to Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va. Under the changes to the federal nutrition standards, schools won't have to cut salt in meals, states will be able to allow some schools to serve fewer whole grains, and schools will be allowed to serve 1% milk rather than only nonfat milk.
Can the Rust Belt become the 'Brain Belt'?
Today Akron, Ohio, sits in a region that boasts a major plastics industry. But like many other Rust Belt cities, Akron has a workforce that's increasingly involved in services such as health care, retail, and education; manufacturing continues to decline, with thousands of jobs shed since the Great Recession. Few expect those factory jobs to return under President Trump. What they hope is that Akron can become a center of advanced manufacturing, where the United States has a comparative advantage and which rewards pioneers of new materials and applications fresh out of the lab. With a research university, industrial infrastructure, and public-private partnerships, Akron is among several US cities poised to lead a revival in US manufacturing, says Antoine van Agtmael, an economist and coauthor of "The Smartest Places on Earth: Why Rustbelts Are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation." His book names Akron; Albany, N.Y.; and Minneapolis as examples of "Brain Belt" cities on the rise.
U. of Texas stabbing linked to mental health, not targeted attack, sources say
Authorities investigating a stabbing attack on the University of Texas campus say the suspect may have been suffering from mental health issues but have uncovered no evidence that he was attacking victims with Greek life affiliations, law enforcement sources told the American-Statesman early Tuesday. Speculation ran rampant on social media in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which killed one student and injured three others, that a man police identified as Kendrex J. White, 21, may be targeting members of UT fraternities or sororities. However, two law enforcement sources involved in the investigation say they have no information to support that theory. Meanwhile, UT officials say they will also be working today to understand the sequence of events concerning a campus emergency notification.
How Two Mississippi College Students Fell in Love and Decided to Join a Terrorist Group
In three short months, Jaelyn Young and Muhammad Dakhlalla found themselves at the center of America's debate over radicalization. In the past three years, the FBI has invested significant resources in tracking and arresting these ISIS sympathizers in the United States. Between March 2014 and April 2017, 125 people have been charged with ISIS-related crimes. But in February 2015, FBI Director James Comey said there were terrorism investigations happening in all 50 states, and later that year, he said more than 900 were open. The small group of people who have been arrested on ISIS-related charges are an idiosyncratic bunch---they come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and each case is distinctive. But many do share important traits with Moe and Jaelyn.
MUW Chamber Singers make ready for concert, Scotland tour
Current rehearsals for Mississippi University for Women's choral groups contain an added air of excitement as students prepare for a May 5 community concert. Among those groups, the Chamber Singers are fully aware they are also rehearsing to perform for audiences in Scotland next month. Twenty-nine students are signed up for the international tour which is May 29 through June 9, said Phillip Stockton, director of MUW choral activities. They will present concerts in churches including St. Giles' Cathedral and Priestfield Parish Church in the capital of Edinburgh. They will also perform and make a recording in Greyfriars Kirk, one of the oldest surviving structures built outside the Old Town of Edinburgh, in the 1600s. The May 5 concert at Poindexter Hall on campus is, in a way, a preview, said Stockton. The students' program, with numbers in English and Latin, is titled "Lux Aeterna," Latin for eternal light.
One Card transitions from Manage My ID to GET at UM
The Ole Miss ID Center recently changed the website they use to manage a student's Ole Miss One Card, more commonly referred to as a student ID. Since 2008, Manage My ID has been the online location where students or parents could load money to an account's Flex and Express dollars. GET is now the new access portal for students to manage their One Card. In addition to managing accounts, students can search for places to eat, view recent account activity and report a lost card from the site. Manager of contractual services Kathy Tidwell said there will be additional features added to GET as time goes along. "There will be other features added as the product matures," Tidwell said. "One that we will be testing in the fall at some of our on-campus food locations is a food ordering app."
Shepard Smith's journey from Ole Miss to Fox
As chief news anchor and managing editor of Fox News Network's breaking news division, Shepard Smith has seen it all. He covered the 1997 death of Princess Diana. He was on the scene five minutes after planes deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. He was there when Hurricane Katrina destroyed parts of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Smith is a Holly Springs native, a New Yorker of 20 years, a former University of Mississippi journalism student and a devoted Ole Miss Rebels fan. Smith was a featured speaker April 21 at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media's recent "It Starts With MEek" conference, an event that promotes diversity and inclusivity. He is also gay. Smith believes his sexuality is a piece of his personal story, but not the most defining factor.
Fight over College of Business leadership brews at Jackson State
Thirteen tenured faculty members of the Jackson State University's College of Business have voted no confidence in their dean. Maury Granger, a professor in the Department of Economics, said 19 of the 20 tenured faculty met April 21, and 13 cast a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Ramin Cooper Maysami. Granger said untenured faculty weren't invited to participate in the vote because of fear of possible retaliation. The College of Business has 40 full-time staffers, according to its website. Some faculty members are unhappy because Maysami has proposed shutting down the Department of Economics, according to Granger. Maysami said via email of the dispute: "It is all about resistance to change."
Alcorn State scholarship banquet raises money for future students
The MSU Riley Center was adorned with purple and gold Friday night in honor of Alcorn State University's annual scholarship banquet. Each year, Alcorn alumni come out to the banquet to celebrate their alma mater and help raise money for future students. The funds raised at the event will go to provide scholarships for students at the university. Newscenter 11 spoke to Alcorn's president tonight about why he loves coming back to Meridian each year. "We see tremendous support from Meridian and Lauderdale County," president Alfred Rankins says. "This is one of my favorite alumni chapters here because they are very supportive of what we do at Alcorn."
William Carey University breaks ground on pharmacy school
A private Christian university has begun construction on Mississippi's second pharmacy program. Local media groups report William Carey University broke ground Monday on its pharmacy school. Now, the University of Mississippi offers the state's only program. William Carey plans to open the school in July 2018 at its Tradition campus on Biloxi's northern rim. A spokeswoman for the school says the inaugural class has 64 students but enrollment is expected to rise to 90. Officials say there will be 23 faculty and eight staff members.
William Carey University at Tradition expanding
It is the latest project in the creation of a "medical corridor" at Tradition. William Carey University hosted a ground breaking Monday morning for its new School of Pharmacy. Along with the new pharmacy school project, there's even more health care development on the way in that area. "We have been looking forward to this day for a long, long time, and it's finally here," said William Carey President Dr. Tommy King as he welcomed the crowd to the ceremony. William Carey University at Tradition celebrates the start of building a $7 million School of Pharmacy and a $3 million academic building. BP settlement money will cover $1 million of the project. "The dream continues. What once was just an idea, some thought a passing idea of building a medical city among these pines, is slowly, actually, quickly, and surely becoming a reality," said Gov. Phil Bryant, "All of the Gulf Coast, all of Mississippi, and all of the nation will one day look in amazement that it happened here, and we will look back and thank all those that were a part of it."
Judge orders mediation in Browning vs. William Carey lawsuit
The judge hearing the Daniel Browning lawsuit against William Carey University has ordered the case to mediation. Judge Robert Helfrich will not allow scheduling of a court date in Forrest County Circuit Court until the case is heard by a mediator. Browning's attorney, Michael Adelman, said mediation is scheduled for July 25. It can occur at any point up to when discovery is concluded, including the taking of depositions and followup. Court documents also show Adelman has served notice that William Carey President Tommy King's deposition will be taken June 28. Browning has sued William Carey University, King and the university's board of trustees for breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional harm. King fired the tenured religion professor April 28, 2016, with a termination letter.
Northeast Mississippi Community College Mobile Learning Conference slated for June
The early bird registration deadline for Northeast Mississippi Community College's annual Mobile Learning Conference is set for May 19, and attendees at this year's event can expect to leave with new insight into educational technology and blended learning. Now in its ninth year, the 2017 Mobile Learning Conference, called "A Journey to Transformational Learning," is set for June 12-13 at the Larry W. McCollum Center at NEMCC's Corinth campus on Harper Road. Conference costs are $140 and include snacks, lunch and instruction from some of the top technology instructors in the southeastern United States. In response to tightening budgets in the state, the Mobile Learning Conference has been shortened to just two days, and the registration price is lower than in previous years.
Inaugural Disaster Day prepares responders, students for worst
The call sounded and area emergency responders made their way to the staged leak of hazardous gas at the front of a three-van pile up at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn. First-year students in the program were strewn about, one with painted-on head injuries that oozed fake blood squeezed out of a dish detergent bottle and another pretending to go into labor. Minutes later they were transported to a triage tent where second-year students began their drill. For most, the drill was the first time students at VCOM were exposed to a disaster scenario, whether simulated or real. The Auburn University Office of Risk Management and Safety and VCOM partnered on Friday for the inaugural Auburn University Disaster Day. Opelika Fire, Auburn Fire, East Alabama Medical Center EMS and Auburn University Public Safety personnel partnered with second-year VCOM students to treat first-year VCOM students that had volunteered to act in the first scenario.
U. of Kentucky to issue $171 million in bonds to help health care, law school projects
The University of Kentucky plans to issue $171 million in bonds to continue outfitting its newest hospital tower and pay for a total renovation of the UK College of Law. The vast majority of that money, $150 million, will pay to finish out the last three floors of Pavilion A, the 12-story tower next to the original Chandler Hospital. UK HealthCare officials are still working out exactly what will go on each floor. Currently, most of the floors house patients, along with emergency departments, a pediatric emergency room, surgery services, and cardiovascular and neuroscience services. The entire project is estimated to cost about $1 billion. The other $21 million will be spent on the $56 million law school renovation. State bonds will pay the remaining $35 million for the project. "We are well within our debt capacity," said UK Treasurer Susan Krauss.
Report: South Carolina colleges among the least affordable for needy families
A new study ranks South Carolina's public colleges as some of the nation's least affordable for needy students. The Institute for College Access and Success called the findings "striking" in releasing its state-by-state breakdown of the financial burden for getting a public education. Nationwide, the study found the neediest families commit an average of 77 percent of their total income to cover costs at a four-year school and 50 percent at a two-year school. But in South Carolina, families that earn $30,000 or less have to spend 104 percent of their total income to cover the average net price of going to a four-year school, and 52 percent of their total income for a two-year school.
What the Congressional Budget Deal Means for Higher Ed
Bipartisan congressional negotiators have reached an agreement on a $1-trillion spending bill that would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and reinstate year-round Pell Grants. Legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to vote on the package by the end of this week. The bill's increase for the NIH, amounting to $2 billion, is in sharp contrast to the budget blueprint laid out in March by the Trump administration. In the proposed "skinny budget," the administration called for an 18-percent cut in the NIH's budget and a reorganization of its institutes and centers.
Omnibus budget deal maintains programs hit with drastic cuts in Trump budget
The deal reached by Congress this weekend on an omnibus budget for the current 2017 fiscal year included key victories for universities and higher ed advocates. It also looked like at least a preliminary rejection of the draconian budget blueprint offered by the Trump administration for the next federal fiscal year. The spending agreement, which funds the government through September, restores year-round Pell Grant funding, a longtime priority sought by student aid groups since its elimination as a cost-saving measure in 2011. The deal also funds the National Institutes of Health at $2 billion more than 2016 levels. And it provides modest increases to college readiness programs TRIO and GEAR UP, which were reduced significantly in the proposed White House 2018 budget plan. Where higher ed groups didn't gain important, if modest, wins like year-round Pell -- a policy that has received bipartisan backing -- the budget agreement mostly maintained the status quo.
Congress Totally Ignored Trump's Cuts to NIH Funding
From the start, it didn't seem likely Republican lawmakers would agree with President Trump's proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health. Even some of the most conservative legislators had worked in recent years to increase the agency's funding, and the White House figures represented a dramatic reversal of that effort. With the release of their budget agreement for 2017, lawmakers have demonstrated how little they cared for the administration's plans for NIH. The omnibus, which spells out funding between now and the end of this fiscal year, allocates an additional $2 billion to the agency. That figure represents a rebuke of the president's cuts. But it also lets lawmakers continue to do what they wanted all along: to replace a recent pattern of boom-and-bust funding with steady funding increases year after year.
Science Advocates See Trump Backlash in Budget Boost
If there was any doubt that a Republican-led Congress might give a strong boost to federal science spending, the Trump administration probably sealed the deal. With its call in March for a mammoth $6-billion cut in the annual budget of the National Institutes of Health, the administration appears to have done more than anything else to energize the science community and supportive lawmakers, advocates said. That spark culminated Monday with congressional leaders announcing their agreement on a $1-trillion federal budget package covering the rest of the 2017 fiscal year -- extending to September 30 -- that provides increases for several key science agencies, including a $2-billion boost at NIH. Although the NIH stands as the biggest winner among science agencies in the spending plan for the current year, the agreement also includes hefty increases for research at the Pentagon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Energy's ARPA-E, or Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, program.
House GOP's new challengers: Scientists mulling campaigns
Jason Westin works in Texas at one of the country's top cancer hospitals, but on Wednesday he'll ditch his lab for the campaign trail and an upstart congressional bid. Westin, who designs clinical trials for cancer treatments, isn't the only candidate this cycle looking to make the switch from science to politics in the era of President Trump. He's working with 314 Action, a nonprofit that is fashioning itself as the EMILY's List for scientists and those with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). Westin, a cancer research doctor at Houston's renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center, is launching his campaign Wednesday against Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas). Culberson is the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science that oversees NASA and the National Science Foundation. "I think the U.S. House is where I feel I can make my greatest impact on things like healthcare, science funding," Westin said.
Title IX cases that resulted in suicide, a suicide attempt at two colleges prompt fresh debate
In recent years, critics of the Obama administration's approach to sexual assault reporting have charged that colleges are denying the rights of the accused. Conservative websites, primarily, in the last few weeks have focused two pending lawsuits against universities. The suits say that after allegedly bungled investigations into sexual assault accusations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a University of Texas at Arlington student killed himself and a Cornell University student attempted to do so. These two cases, among others, have been held up as examples of a flawed system that some say should require colleges to rely on a higher standard of evidence in investigating and punishing students for rape.
One federal investment that has paid off
Hembree Brandon writes for Delta Farm Press: "Among the areas targeted for significant cuts in the proposed federal budget submitted by the Trump administration is agriculture -- no particular surprise; a predominantly urban Congress has increasingly looked to agriculture for cuts to help fund other programs. Of the almost $21 billion that would be whacked from agriculture funding in President Trump's proposed federal budget, a sizable chunk would be cuts to agricultural research programs at the nation's 112 Land Grant universities and colleges through the USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA)."
When others talk policy, Rep. Steve Holland talks people
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "Years ago, Mississippi Public Broadcasting decided to air a live 'town hall' on a topic. Can't remember what. Twenty or 30 people were to be seated in a studio, taking turns voicing their views. There was a seat open next to Steve Holland. I grabbed it for one reason: I knew he would have something to say, and that if I sat near him I could just nod. As this year's session ended, the planter from Plantersville -- the one and only Rep. Steve Holland, proud old school Democrat and prouder funeral director -- said he would not seek another term. He's a young and energetic 61 years of age, but believes a diagnosis of progressive frontotemporal dementia -- hardening of portions of his brain -- means he should leave the Legislature in 2020. The House chamber will be a quieter place. But it won't be a better place."

John Cohen's coaching tree is atop the SEC
John Cohen gets the question a lot these days. Who would be the Mississippi State athletic director's choice right now for SEC baseball coach of the year? "It's incredibly difficult to answer," Cohen said. With three weekends left in the regular season, it's a tough question because three coaches have led their respective teams to 14-7 records: Andy Cannizaro's Mississippi State team and Butch Thompson's Auburn squad are tied for first in the SEC West while Nick Mingione's Kentucky group is atop the SEC East. What makes answering the question even harder for Cohen is his relationship with each coach; they are all under the former Mississippi State skipper's coaching tree.
Aggie baseball team has tough series ahead on home stretch of SEC schedule
If the Texas A&M baseball team takes care of its last three Southeastern Conference series, the 17th-ranked Aggies have a good chance to be an NCAA regional host. The Aggies (32-13, 13-8) are in a five-team dogfight to win the West, tied for third place with LSU (30-15, 13-8) and Arkansas (34-12, 13-8), just a game back of Auburn (32-14, 14-7) and Mississippi State (30-16, 14-7). East leaders Kentucky (31-14, 14-7) and Florida (30-13, 13-8), in line to be national seeds, both have favorable remaining schedules in a top-heavy division. That leaves the West teams battling for three or four regional hosts. One of the treats of the A&M-Mississippi State series will be A&M's pitching against MSU's Brent Rooker, who leads the league in batting average (.413), home runs (19) and runs batted in (64) as he makes a bid to become the league's second triple crown winner, joining Mississippi State's Rafael Palmeiro who hit .415 with 29 home runs and 94 RBIs in 1984.
Ben Howland hires Collin Crane as Mississippi State strength coach
An opportunity to return to the SEC was one Collin Crane couldn't pass up, and on Monday the Knoxville native was named Mississippi State's new strength and conditioning coach for men's basketball. Crane, 26, joins Ben Howland's staff after serving the previous two years in the same capacity at Chattanooga. He also served a two-year stint at Florida. "I can absolutely say I am beyond grateful to Coach Howland and the Mississippi State athletic department for this opportunity," he said. "I have tremendous respect for Coach Howland, and I strongly believe in his vision for the basketball program. I'm looking forward to the task of helping to build a program that will win on a high level." Before joining the Mocs' program, Crane served as the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Missouri State, working with men's basketball, tennis and golf. Prior to that stop, he was the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Florida.
How ESPN's struggles could derail college football's exploding revenue
Familiar faces that resided on your television screen for years, talent like Ed Werder, Trent Dilfer and Andy Katz, all received pink slips from ESPN last week. The most common explanation for why ESPN laid off as many as 100 employees, many of them well-respected in the journalism industry, is "cord-cutting" has taken a machete to ESPN's subscriber numbers, and most importantly, its profits. Cord-cutting isn't a new concept -- the trend of consumers dropping their cable packages has been happening for years -- but Wednesday represented a watershed moment as a sports media behemoth had to shed talented, popular journalists to keep up with the changing times. Television money, particularly from ESPN, has dramatically changed the college football landscape over the last decade. The major question is what happens when ESPN and other TV networks decide they don't want to keep upping the ante each time a rights deal comes up for renewal?
After 44 years, Commonwealth Stadium has a new name: Kroger Field
First Commonwealth Stadium underwent a facelift and now it's getting a brand new name. With an emphasis on "brand." The home of the University of Kentucky football team will now be known as Kroger Field, per a deal struck between the university, the UK Athletics department and marketing partner JMI Sports. "An unprecedented partnership that pairs two iconic brands: UK and Kroger, whose reach extends throughout the commonwealth and far, far beyond our borders," university President Eli Capilouto said of the agreement, which is for 12 years and $1.85 million annually. Standing deals with vendors and concession companies such as Aramark will remain in place, a UK official said. Some of them may work with Kroger as well, but those details are still being ironed out.
It's almost official: UF-UGA game stays in Jacksonville
The new five-year deal to keep the Florida-Georgia football game in Jacksonville that was signed by officials from both schools more than a year ago is about to become official. The new contract has been sent to the city of Jacksonville for final approval, which is expected to come perhaps as early as this week, according to sources close to the situation. During original negotiations between the schools and Jacksonville, the city lobbied for a 10-year deal, but Georgia wanted a shorter term; and all parties eventually agreed on a five-year contract in March 2016. The terms of the contract call for both schools to receive as much as $2.75 million in incentives over the next five years, and a $125,000 payment once the contract is finalized by the city. Each school is guaranteed $250,000 annually through the 2021 season, in addition to ticket revenue.
Pentagon chief cracks down on service academy athletes going pro without serving full-time
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has rescinded a Defense Department policy that allowed some of the best athletes from the military's service academies to avoid active-duty service after graduating in order to pursue professional sports, the Pentagon said Monday. The new policy will again require all athletes to serve at least two years on active duty if they attend a service academy. Mattis said in a memo that the academies "exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and lethality of our Military Services," and athletes won't be granted exceptions anymore. The policy will not apply to athletes who recently graduated, such as Keenan Reynolds of the Naval Academy. Last year, he was allowed to become a Navy reservist immediately after graduating from the school so that he could pursue a professional football career.
Claims of Liberal Bias in Media Now Include Sportscasters, Too
A TV network is accused of political bias: hardly a surprise in 2017. But what if the network is a sports broadcaster? An unusual strain of partisanship -- at least in the sports corner of the news media -- emerged last week after ESPN announced it was laying off dozens of employees. The public reaction included jeers toward the network for what some viewers perceived as a leftward slant in ESPN's coverage, a reflection of how the country's raw political nerves and cultural divisions have spilled over into a world that many value as a pristine redoubt from worldly concerns: sports. "It's a sign of the times," said Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports who is a professor at the Columbia Journalism School.

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