Friday, May 5, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Area universities tap commencement speakers
The bulk of the Golden Triangle's graduates will earn degrees from Mississippi State University, where MSU alumna and vice chancellor for University of Mississippi Medical Center's health affairs LouAnn Woodward will speak this weekend. Woodward graduated from MSU with a microbiology degree in 1985 and went on to complete a residency in emergency medicine at UMMC where she is now a tenured professor and dean of the School of Medicine. "What I remember most are the friendships and wonderful professors who guided and mentored me," Woodward said in an emailed statement to The Dispatch. "Several of them took a real interest in my future success and personal development."
 
Mississippi State provides graduation parking details
With around 2,900 students graduating from Mississippi State University Friday and Saturday, MSU Parking and Transit Services has issued information and guidelines for parking during the ceremonies, which will take place in the Humphrey Coliseum. All campus parking lots will be utilized for public parking during the ceremonies unless otherwise marked. Corporal Emmitt Johnson of the MSU Police Department said parking on grass or along the side of the road would not be permitted, and added that while the department would not have any additional patrols out, officers would be on the lookout for significant speeding and other major infractions. The first commencement ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. Friday. The second day of graduation ceremonies begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.
 
Mississippi State to train furniture industry supervisors through grant
A new $44,900 grant from the Furniture Foundation will facilitate training of front-line furniture supervisors by Mississippi State University personnel. Four supervisory management training programs will be offered by the university's Franklin Furniture Institute at manufacturing locations throughout the state between August and July 2018. The Furniture Foundation, a research and education fund administered by the American Home Furnishings Alliance, recently announced the grant to MSU for the training programs. "This is one of the most requested services available through the MSU Franklin Furniture Institute," said institute director Bill Martin. "The training is specifically designed for middle management and first line supervisors to provide contemporary incremental manufacturing instruction for all facets of workforce and management in manufacturing."
 
College of Arts and Sciences taps longtime faculty member as new dean
A longtime Mississippi State University faculty member has been named dean of the university's College of Arts and Sciences. Rick Travis, who has served as interim dean of the college for the past year, will be confirmed as dean, pending formal approval by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. Travis will also serve as CEO and chief academic officer of the university's largest college, including 300 full-time faculty, more than 5,000 students, nine doctoral programs and 24 academic majors across 14 departments. "I'm very excited and very humbled," Travis said.
 
Master Gardeners to host plant sale at Earth's Bounty Saturday
Last year, Mississippi State University celebrated the 25th year of a Master Gardener program. Meridian began training community members then using video conference support with MSU instructors in the agriculture department leading the classes. After the 40 hours of training, the volunteers then 'pay back' the training by working in their local community teaching what they had learned about gardening. That training program has been honed and is now taught every February statewide to incorporate new members. Each year, MSU holds a statewide conference with further training to keep the now Master Gardeners interested. Our Meridian group, the East Mississippi Master Gardeners or EMMG, hold a spring plant sale every year at Earth's Bounty at the Depot. This year the sale will be held on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
 
Supervisors move closer to selling Starkville hospital
Despite objections from hospital leaders and an ongoing petition drive, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors stepped closer to selling OCH Regional Hospital this week. Following months of assessments, the Board of Supervisors on Monday voted 3-2 to proceed with a request for proposals for the sale of the hospital or a 50-year lease. Board of supervisors president Orlando Trainer, who has long advocated for the county to consider selling the hospital, said the hospital needs a health care partner to meet the future needs of the community. The vote came over the unanimous objections of the OCH Regional Board of Trustees, who are appointed by the supervisors to oversee the hospital operations. "It's been a community-oriented hospital for years," said Richard Hilton, hospital chief executive officer, who joined the OCH Regional staff as chief financial officer in 1983. If the hospital is sold or leased "decisions will not be made locally."
 
Republicans count affidavits; Ben Carver takes lead in Ward 1
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver now has a one-vote lead over his Republican challenger, Jason Camp, after party executives accepted two previously rejected affidavit ballots Thursday. Camp emerged with a one-vote lead Tuesday, and officials rejected three affidavit ballots Wednesday -- including two from eligible voters deemed "inactive," whose forms were also not correctly signed by poll workers. Those two ballots were the focal point of Thursday's closed-door Oktibbeha County Republican Party Executive Committee meeting. Committee members did not notify local media before Thursday's meeting and unlocked the doors at City Hall only to announce their decision to accept the affidavits, both of which went for Carver and gave the incumbent a 105-104 lead in the race. Oktibbeha County Republican Party Executive Committee member Jack Forbus said the group based its decision on a Mississippi Supreme Court case allowing executive committees to reverse decisions about the validity of affidavits.
 
'Dispatches from Pluto' author describes his time living in Mississippi Delta
Shortly after moving to Pluto, a small town in Holmes County, freelance journalist and book author Richard Grant heard this bit of wisdom from his friend the cookbook author Martha Foose, who had taken him on a long-promised trip through the Mississippi Delta. "Sometimes I swear to God, living in the Delta is like being in love with a crazy person," Foose told Grant. Then according to Grant, Foose stood up, lifted her glass and declared, "I love you, b****!" The exchange ended up in Grant's book, "Dispatches from Pluto," which Simon and Schuster published in 2015. It's one of four books Grant has written and the subject of his talk Thursday in MUW's Parkinson Hall, hosted as part of the Columbus Arts Council's Mississippi Writers' Series. "I think Mississippi is the most misunderstood place in America," he said during a question-and-answer session following his talk.
 
State thus far has not benefited from 'Trump effect'
In the short view, the outlook for the Mississippi economy has improved nicely. The economy for 2017 is projected by the Institutions of Higher Learning's University Research Center (URC) to expand by 1.9 percent over 2016, up 0.4 percentage points from the last previous estimate. But the expansion is far below the 2.6 percent growth for 2016, the URC said in its spring outlook released last week. And 2017 looks much better for the national economy, which has been nudged up to 2.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Increased consumer spending is in part the reason for the national uptick, based on higher consumer and business confidence, according to the center. "This improved sentiment is based on anticipated regulatory and tax reform becoming effective sometime in 2018," the report states. In other words, "the Trump effect."
 
Governor wants MEC to get behind lottery for transportation
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said Thursday he would consider including the enactment of a lottery in an upcoming special session with the proceeds being used for transportation needs if the Mississippi Economic Council would support the idea. "I was interested in identifying it (lottery revenue) as a possible source for infrastructure...," Bryant said Thursday after an event in the state Capitol. "The state chamber of commerce, MEC, would need to step forward and help lead in that effort. "If they're not concerned, if they're not supportive of a state lottery for the single purpose of infrastructure, then more than likely, it will not be on the call." Scott Waller, the interim chief executive officer of MEC, confirmed his group has been in discussions with the governor over the lottery issue. He said the MEC hopes to have information on how much revenue for the state a lottery would generate and what other economic impacts a lottery might have on the state.
 
Speaker Philip Gunn pitches local tax hike for roads
Voters could decide whether to raise local taxes to fund infrastructure improvements in their communities under a new proposal from House Speaker Philip Gunn. Gunn pitched the local tax option Thursday in a seven-point infrastructure funding plan shared with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Gov. Phil Bryant and reporters. But Reeves' office was cool to the idea. "Out of respect for Gov. Bryant's authority to set the agenda for the special session, the lieutenant governor sees no reason to comment on ideas that are not likely to be part of any (special session) call," said Laura Hipp, spokeswoman for Reeves. "Until told otherwise, he expects to pass the appropriation bills as agreed to by House and Senate conferees during the regular session."
 
Lottery? Local gas tax? New proposals to fund roads, bridges
Mississippi officials are rolling out new ideas for pay for roads and bridges. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant says a lottery is one possibility, while House leaders are proposing a local fuel tax, subject to approval by voters in cities or counties. Mississippi is one of six states without a lottery, and Bryant said Thursday that he might ask legislators to consider creating one during a special session next month -- but only if the state chamber of commerce supports using proceeds from the game to help pay for highways and bridges. Improving transportation has been a big issue for the Mississippi Economic Council, but the group hasn't taken a public position about a lottery. "I know they've discussed it but there's been no final decision as to whether or not they would come forward as a state chamber and say, 'We would support a state lottery for the purposes of infrastructure,'" Bryant, a Republican, told reporters at the Capitol.
 
Special session will not include school funding
A revamp of the state's school funding will not be on the agenda of the special Legislative session this June, officials clarified Thursday. "It (education funding) will not be part of the special session," said Nathan Wells, chief of staff for Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. Gunn indicated in February a special session to work out details of a new formula was likely. However, the special session called by Gov. Phil Bryant for June 5 will be reserved for other issues. A request for comment regarding plans for a new formula from Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves' office was not immediately returned late Thursday afternoon.
 
Update: S&P latest to hit Mississippi with negative credit outlook
It could have been worse. That's the assessment Mississippi State Treasurer Lynn Fitch made after a Standard & Poor's credit outlook downgrade to negative for Mississippi's general obligation bond debt. Mississippi's gets to keep its AA rating from S&P Global Ratings, but the ratings agency doesn't see a fiscal turnaround ahead for the state any time soon. "The outlook change reflects our view of continued weakness in the state's revenue trends and relatively slow economic growth, and our expectation that Mississippi could continue to experience budget pressures as it manages through budget reductions and the incremental revenue loss from the scheduled implementation of recent tax changes," S&P said in the downgrade notice issued May 3. "We're fortunate it wasn't worse," Fitch said in a press statement just after S&P Global issued the downgrade. S&P's May 1 outlook revision also brought a criticism of funding levels for the state's public employee retirement fund.
 
Regulators seek more utility work for Mississippi companies
Mississippi regulators want utilities to do more to hire companies based in the state, proposing an administrative rule that would require regulated private utilities to keep lists of interested companies and notify them of contracting opportunities. The Public Service Commission voted 3-0 Thursday to seek public comment on the "Hire Mississippi" rule. Though it would encourage utilities to consider Mississippi firms, it would not require them to set aside any work for in-state companies. Public Service Commission Chairman Brandon Presley, a Democrat representing the state's northern district, says he believes more Mississippi companies could provide services, if they were aware of opportunities. "It just makes me sick seeing trucks with Oklahoma tags trimming trees in Mississippi," Presley said.
 
Mississippi Capitol celebrated as National Historic Landmark
Mississippi officials are celebrating the designation of the state Capitol as a National Historic Landmark. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and others took part in a ceremony Thursday inside the structure that is still a working statehouse. The Capitol cost only $1 million when it was built between 1901 and 1903. It has undergone multiple restoration efforts, including current work to make the dome waterproof. Senate President Pro Tempore Terry Burton, a Republican from Newton, recalled the solemn responsibility he felt the first time he walked into the Capitol after being elected in 1991. He said that feeling hasn't diminished: "That awe strikes me every day when I walk in here. It's a beautiful building. It's a great place to come to work."
 
After rejections, Coast senator found a way to get youth court bill passed
Mississippi's county youth courts will no longer be able to keep case records from parents who are involved in the bureaucratic maze of child-welfare law, thanks to some Coast lawmakers who quietly inserted transparency language into a bill that has now become law. On its face, House Bill 1213 looks like a measure dedicated solely to expanding the youth court's ability to empower and expand the roles of CASA Mississippi. Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA, is an organization of volunteers who help out with complex youth court cases and serve as advocates for children who are stuck in the foster-care system. However, the bill, which Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law effective July 1, includes two sentences of crucial language tucked into the 34-page document, which gives a parent's attorney the right to have a copy of any records, documents, reports and investigative files that are part of the parent's youth court case.
 
Sen. Thad Cochran: FY17 Omnibus bill benefits Jackson metro, Mississippi
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced provisions in the FY2017 omnibus appropriations bill of benefit to the Mississippi and the Jackson metropolitan region. Cochran was instrumental in writing the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (HR.244), which is legislation to complete the 11 remaining appropriations bills. The Senate approved the measure on a 79-18 vote, clearing the way for it to be signed into law. "The completion of the 2017 appropriations process is good for the American people. It will allow funding to be directed to current challenges and priorities for the country. This bipartisan agreement makes program rescissions and consolidations that permitted us to direct resources to areas of greater need, including national defense and infrastructure," Cochran said. The completion of the legislation, which President Trump is expected to sign, would direct funding to Mississippi related to national defense work conducted around the state, flood control projects, and programs to support education, research and other priorities.
 
What to watch for in Sonny Perdue's first farm policy speech
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's first major policy speech in Iowa today may set the tone for the Trump administration's agriculture vision. The symbolism of the speech is not lost on the Ag community: It's a town-hall-style meeting in a setting at farmer Bill Couser's cattle feeding operation. "His backdrop will be a cellulosic ethanol plant, a starch ethanol plant, six new wind generators and about 20 FFA kids," Couser told MA. Those Future Farmers of America could have some Capitol Hill company: Members of the state's congressional delegation, including GOP Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley and Republican Reps. David Young and Steve King, may make an appearance, Couser said. Some 150 attendees are expected.
 
Obama Pioneers a New Approach to the Presidential Library
Presidential libraries often reflect their namesakes' personalities and narratives. Squint, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston resembles a launch pad. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta is deferential and understated, like the man it honors. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, looks as much like a movie set as a ranch -- fitting, given that Reagan came to politics by way of Hollywood. The Obama Presidential Center continues this tradition. The three-building complex, in Jackson Park on Chicago's South Side, clearly reflects Barack Obama's proclivities and priorities as the nation's 44th president. The design, by the New York firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, looks more like a park than a library of the sort associated with, say, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George H.W. Bush. Each of those buildings looks like something you'd see on a college campus, in no small part because, at least with regard to the Bush libraries, they are.
 
U.S. unemployment at 4.4 percent, lowest in a decade
Hiring in the United States rebounded in April as employers added a brisk 211,000 jobs, a reassuring sign that the economy's slump in the first three months of the year will likely prove temporary. The unemployment rate dipped to 4.4 percent -- its lowest point in a decade -- from 4.5 percent in March, the Labor Department said Friday. The figures suggest that businesses expect consumer demand to rebound after a lackluster first quarter, when Americans increased spending at the slowest pace in seven years, and will need more employees. So far this year, employers have added an average of 185,000 jobs a month, matching last year's solid pace. It shows that so far the job market under President Donald Trump closely resembles the one Barack Obama presided over in 2016.
 
First garden for black Greek orgs blooms at Ole Miss
The University of Mississippi unveiled the school's first collective space recognizing the nine historically black Greek letter organizations on Sunday -- the first public predominantly white university in the state to do so. Black Greek organizations began chartering at Ole Miss in 1973, 11 years after the successful integration by James Meredith. They struggled with space and visibility on campus, while predominantly white Greek organizations owned and managed buildings on campus that allowed them ample space to conduct chapter operations, host activities and house and feed members. This semester, Mississippi State University announced the goal to create a similar space "for hangouts and programs" to be used by NPHC at the university. "NPHC students are at the table for planning purposes. The fund-raising and design, the students will be right in the middle of it," said John Michael VanHorn, assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at MSU.
 
50 Years: Meridian Community College nursing program celebrates success
Meridian Community College's Associate Degree Nursing program celebrated its past -- and future by observing its golden anniversary Thursday in the Tommy E. Dulaney Center. Since the program started 50 years ago, MCC has produced 4,811 nursing graduates, according to Dr. Betty Davis, the dean of nursing at the school. Davis credited the program's success to strong support from the community and MCC administrators and said it continues to benefit the area economically. MCC President Dr. Scott Elliott called the program "a true success story, not just in the annals of MCC, but in the entire community college system in Mississippi." "It's helped to put MCC on the map," Elliott said, adding, "The program has been blessed with visionary leadership."
 
Ingalls plans to expand Shipbuilder Academy
Plans are in place to expand an apprenticeship program at Ingalls. The first year of Shipbuilder Academy for high school seniors at Ingalls is coming to a close. "The question of advanced manufacturing and shipbuilding is, 'Where are the young people?' Programs like this recruit, encourage, and give an opportunity for young people to know about shipbuilding and for builders and to interact with them," Ingalls Manager of Resource Development for Training Mark Scott said. Twenty-two students from six Jackson County high schools participated in the one-year pilot program, with 13 of those receiving job offers from Ingalls, as long as they obtain their high school degree. The program offers some tuition reimbursement and college credits from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
 
Georgia governor approves carrying concealed guns on college campuses
Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation Thursday allowing people with permits to carry concealed handguns on public college campuses, praising GOP leaders for making the changes he demanded when he vetoed a previous campus-carry bill last year. Deal shocked fellow Republicans with the tone of last year's veto message, which referenced opposition to guns on the University of Virginia campus by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and an opinion by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia that described schools as "sensitive places" under the Second Amendment. The governor signed this year's version without a public ceremony, explaining in a written message released Thursday evening that he was swayed by the addition of campus locations where concealed handguns won't be allowed.
 
Georgia college officials grapple with new campus gun law
University System of Georgia officials said Thursday they will begin working on how to implement the state's new rules allowing weapons permit holders to carry firearms on campus, directing schools to hold off making any changes until hearing from them first. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the "campus carry" legislation Thursday evening. The bill signing comes at busiest time of the school year -- during final exams and graduation ceremonies. Interview requests for police chiefs at some of the state's largest public institutions were referred to the University System of Georgia. The system released a statement Thursday that said it will give guidance to all schools, which include the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Kennesaw State. Valdosta police Chief Brian Childress blasted the legislation at a news conference Thursday. "This is a mistake. It defies all of the logic and the data," Childress said.
 
NLRB: Vanderbilt Full-Time, Non-Tenure-Track Instructors Aren't Managers
A regional National Labor Relations Board official this week rejected Vanderbilt University's claim that its full-time, non-tenure-track lecturers are managers under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore not entitled to collective bargaining --- similar to tenure-track faculty members at private institutions. The board officer based the decision, in part, on the fact that relatively few full-time, non-tenure track instructors serve in shared governance roles or on committees at Vanderbilt. The board also rejected the university's claim that non-tenure-track faculty members don't share enough common interests to form a union. But in a somewhat unusual move, it also split up the proposed unit into four separate ones, by school, to further ensure that members share a community of interest.
 
Texas A&M Transportation Tech Conference explores idea of driverless cars becoming new normal
The idea of connected and autonomous vehicles on every corner may seem like for most an idea that's straight out of science fiction, but for the more than 200 attendees of the second annual Texas A&M Transportation Technology Conference, the future is just around the corner. The conference kicked off at the newly opened Stella Hotel on Thursday, focusing on the theme of "Infrastructure for Connected Automation" with speakers and attendees from across academia and the public and private sectors. Presenters at the event shared their assessment of where the technology is today -- both in terms of the physical hardware as well as the many secondary questions such as policy, safety and acceptance -- and the role of research in pushing it forward. Keynote speaker John Halikowski, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, described Thursday's gathering as a "cathedral of connected and automated vehicles" experts and said Texas is one of several environments around the country where he expects to see progress in addressing the challenges ahead.
 
U. of Missouri students use #MutedByMU to voice disapproval of new expression policies
One week ago, former MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley announced that MU's new free speech policies would go into effect June 1. On Thursday, several students started tweeting #MutedByMU to express their feelings about them and put out a tent in Speaker's Circle with pieces of paper outlining protests that happened throughout MU's history. Due to strong gusts of wind, the tent fell apart by the afternoon. Because Thursday marked the end of the semester, tweets said it was technically "the last day of protest." Junior Marshall Allen, who studies political science and black studies, is part of the collective of black men and women who started the hashtag. He said the collective planned only to put the hashtag out on social media and place the display in Speaker's Circle. He said any other actions are "not our doing."
 
In Higher Ed, Adjuncts May Have Most to Lose If Obamacare Is Repealed
Perhaps no group working on college campuses had more at stake in Thursday's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act than contingent faculty members. Full-time faculty and staff members can typically count on their institutions to provide health insurance, but most part-time professors are on their own. If the current law, also known as Obamacare, is repealed, many adjuncts dread a return to the days when insurance was even more expensive than it is now, completely unaffordable, or even unattainable. The House voted 217 to 213 to pass the American Health Care Act, a Republican-sponsored bill that would repeal Obamacare and replace it with provisions that critics say would weaken the current law's protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and increase costs for older Americans. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to face a tougher fight for passage.
 
Purdue's Faculty Senate Seeks to Rescind Kaplan Deal
Saying Purdue University's purchase of Kaplan University violated "both common-sense educational practice and respect for the Purdue faculty," the university's Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to ask Purdue's leaders to reconsider the deal. Following a two-hour meeting, the Senate voted, 46 to 8 with one abstention, on a resolution calling on the president and Board of Trustees "to rescind any decisions, to the degree possible, made without faculty input." The vote came just one week after Purdue's surprise announcement of its deal to buy the 32,000-student university in an effort to jump-start its online profile. Before the Faculty Senate vote, Purdue's president, Mitch Daniels, spent an hour answering questions about the deal, insisting to faculty members that the university had examined all the key issues in the five and a half months it spent secretly negotiating and vetting the plan.
 
On Campuses Far From China, Still Under Beijing's Watchful Eye
China's booming economy has increasingly allowed more of its young men and women to seek a college education in the West; 329,000 now study in the United States, more than five times the number recorded a decade ago. By far the largest contingent of foreign students, they can be an economic lifeline for colleges, since they usually pay full tuition, and they can provide a healthy dose of international diversity. But those students often bring to campus something else from home: the watchful eyes and occasionally heavy hand of the Chinese government, manifested through its ties to many of the 150-odd chapters of the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations. The groups have worked in tandem with Beijing to promote a pro-Chinese agenda and tamp down anti-Chinese speech on Western campuses. In rare instances, members of the student group have been accused of spying.


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State softball seniors will play final series at home
Amanda Ivy had one thought when she Mississippi State softball coach Vann Stuedeman for the first time. Ivy wondered if Stuedeman had that much energy all of the time. "Coach Vann makes you love the game," Ivy said. "I have learned so much the last four years. The biggest thing I learned is to have passion for what you are doing. There is a love for your teammates and for the game here. It is special." Ivy is one of five players who will play at Nusz Park for the final time this weekend when MSU (34-18, 8-13 Southeastern Conference plays hosts to No. 16 Kentucky (32-13, 11-10) in a three-game SEC series. The series opens at 6:30 tonight. The game will be part of the SEC Network's "Bases Loaded" package, which will take fans to each of the six conference games.
 
State drops opener at Texas A&M
Mississippi State's offense was held in check in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference baseball series Thursday night. Texas A&M broke open a tight contest when a grand-slam highlighted a five-run fourth inning as the No. 7 Bulldogs fells 9-2 to the No. 15 Aggies at Blue Bell Park. MSU dropped its series opener for only the third time in eight conference weekends. MSU fell to 30-17 overall and 14-8 in league play, while Texas A&M improved to 34-13 and 14-8. The two teams are tied for second place in the Western Division, a half-game behind Auburn. "We didn't play sharp early in the game," head coach Andy Cannizaro said. "We did battle but we didn't execute well enough. We had chances and couldn't get a bunt down. We had a tough night in a hostile environment. The grand slam really hurt us in the fourth inning. That switched all the momentum in the game."
 
Mississippi State loses opener to Texas A&M
Mississippi State dropped its third straight game Thursday night. The No. 13 Bulldogs lost to No. 16 Texas A&M in College Station, 9-2, in the opener of an important three-game series with only three weekends left in the regular season. This is the first three-game losing streak for Mississippi State (30-17, 14-8 SEC) since mid-March. The Bulldogs entered the game tied for first place in the SEC West with Auburn. Texas A&M (34-13, 14-8) led throughout and MSU starter Konnor Pilkington lasted only 3 1/3 innings, which tied for his shortest outing of the year (he also pitched 3 1/3 in the season opener against Texas Tech. Pilkington seven earned runs, five hits and four walks. He fanned three.
 
College tennis: Mississippi State's Nuno Borges earns SEC's top honor
Mississippi State men's tennis sophomore Nuno Borges earned Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors and was one of four players Wednesday to receive postseason league honors. Borges, who is ranked No. 3 nationally, is 31-6 in singles play and leads the SEC with a 19-3 record at the No. 1 spot. Niclas Braun (All-SEC Second Team), Strahinja Rakic (All-SEC Second Team), and Giovanni Oradini (SEC All-Freshman Team) joined him on the All-SEC team. "This is more than I could've ever expected a year and a half ago when I first came to MSU," Borges said. "I'm so proud, not only for getting this honor, but also for all the progress I've made since then. This award doesn't only reflect the hard work that I put in, but also all the efforts of my teammates, coaches and staff who pushed me to get better every single day. Without their love and support, none of this would be possible."
 
Mississippi State's Nuno Borges honored as SEC's best man
Mississippi State's Nuno Borges was named SEC men's tennis player of the year on Wednesday in a vote by league coaches. The third-ranked Borges is 31-6 record overall in singles play this season, 19-3 at the No. 1 spot. He has 21 wins against ranked opponents, "Nuno has an exceptional will to succeed," MSU coach Matt Roberts said. Second teamers include MSU sophomores Niclas Braun and Strahinja Rakic. MSU's Giovanni Oradini was named to the All-Freshman team.
 
U. of Kentucky baseball's historic season now includes message on outfield wall
Kentucky unveils a tangible symbol of the re-branding of its suddenly can-do baseball program during this weekend's series with Georgia. The wall in right field, previously big and blue and blank, has come alive. From a distance, the message is clear with the words in block letters "WE ARE UK." Viewed up close on Thursday, it becomes apparent that inside each letter are lists of names. Every UK baseball letterman since 1903. Every season-ticket holder since 2006. In all, about 4,000 names. When asked about the message covering the expanse of the wall, UK first-year coach Nick Mingione said it was a thank you note writ large: 20 feet tall by 56.5 feet wide. Kentucky, 31-14 overall and 14-7 in the SEC, has the league's highest Ratings Percentage Index (No. 3) and strength of schedule (No. 8). The Wildcats have a one-game lead in the SEC Eastern Division and are tied with Mississippi State and Auburn for the league's best record.
 
Auburn University changes student football ticket regulations
Auburn University's Student Government Association and Auburn Athletics Department announced changes to student football ticketing on Tuesday, adjusting regulations placed on student tickets last year. In an email to the student body, SGA President Jacqueline Keck said SGA was "excited about the positive effects of last year's changes," including that all freshmen were able to purchase tickets for the first time. However, she recognized changes were necessary and SGA has "been working since last fall to enhance the student game day experience" and has been reaching out to Auburn Athletics to help fill the student section every week while maintaining safety, create a ticket pool to ensure tickets are held by students who want to attend each game and simplify the process to get a guest ticket.
 
LSU continues 'aggressive' exploration of nutrition center in football ops building
LSU continues to examine the possibility of having its athletic nutrition center included in the scheduled expansion to the football operations building. The athletic department is "aggressively" exploring the idea, said Eddie Nunez, the school's deputy director of athletics overseeing projects. This is something athletic director Joe Alleva mentioned in February. The nutrition center, an athlete-only, glorified dining hall, would be one of several additions to the operations facility during a facelift of the 12-year-old building that could begin as early as after this football season. The renovation to the building, reported on a year ago, is the second of a two-phase plan to spruce up a facility that's slipped, in some respects, behind some similar structures at other Southeastern Conference programs. LSU is beginning a partnership with a new company to operate its athletic concessions. The school is entering into a 10-year contract with Aramark Sports, according to the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the LSU Board of Supervisors.
 
Tide student-athletes among weekend graduates
More than 80 University of Alabama student-athletes, four of those NCAA champions, are slated to receive their degrees during this weekend's commencement ceremonies. Former Alabama football player and Director of Athletics Bill Battle will also be recognized during Saturday's 6 p.m.ceremony in Coleman Coliseum with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College of Human Environmental Sciences. There are 22 All-Americans among the May graduates. Among the athletes who earned graduate degrees are Collins, Chandler Dare (softball), Northport's Cammie Gray (women's golf), Mike Oczypok (baseball) and Robby Prater (men's golf).
 
Dozens fall ill at college baseball tournament in Montgomery
The Alabama Department of Public Health announced Thursday that it is investigating an outbreak associated with a college baseball tournament in Montgomery. ADPH said 25 to 30 people have reported experiences of a gastrointestinal illness during the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament at Paterson Field. The four-day event started Wednesday and includes participants from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi -- including Blue Mountain College and William Carey University -- and Tennessee. Those who are ill are experiencing symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and lethargy. Some of those affected by the illness have visited different emergency rooms in the area.



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