Thursday, May 11, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Brett Favre talks importance of scouting at fundraiser
There was a time long before becoming a three-time Most Valuable Player in the National Football League, an 11-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl champion and an NFL Hall of Famer where former Green Bay Packers and Southern Miss quarterback Brett Favre took part in the Boy Scouts of America. The still youthful and exuberant Favre admits that he didn't last long in his Cub Scout days after a friend's mother kicked him out of the meeting for horsing around. Still, he understands just how important the Boy Scouts can be for a kid growing up learning responsibility. Favre was in Starkville on Wednesday afternoon as the keynote speaker for the 4th Annual "On My Honor Luncheon for Scouting." The Kiln native spoke about how he cheered for Mississippi State in athletics over the years, especially lately. He's followed and admired Dak Prescott, he's kept up with the Bulldog baseball run this season and pulled for the women's hoops team in their run to the Final Four.
 
Johnny Moore, Lynn Spruill combine for $100K in campaign donations
Starkville mayoral candidates Johnny Moore and Lynn Spruill have raised a combined $100,000 in their attempts to secure the city's highest elected seat, documents show. Campaign finance reports for the two Democrats show individuals and companies from Starkville and outside the city poured $21,525 into the two campaigns' coffers between April 23 and May 6, pushing the total raised for both Moore and Spruill to $100,380 since Jan. 1. Tuesday was the deadline for mandatory, pre-runoff filings. Also filing were Ward 1 candidate Jason Camp and Alderman Ben Carver, who only learned of the need for a runoff Monday after the Oktibbeha County Republican Party declared their May 2 primary a tie.
 
Planning and Zoning Commission OKs subdivision plan
The Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday recommended approval for a project that -- if completed -- will see a new subdivision on the southwest corner of the intersection of Old West Point Road and Rose Perkins Drive. The final plat request was made by Jason Pepper at Tuesday's meeting, on behalf of Pepper Surveying and Mapping, LLC. The development project calls for subdividing a 1.5-acre tract into seven lots on the southwest corner of the intersection of Old West Point Road and Rose Perkins Drive. Pepper told SDN if the Board of Aldermen approves, he will begin construction.
 
Secretary Sonny Perdue to keynote 82nd Delta Council
Delta Council President Harry Simmons of Yazoo City has announced that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue will be the keynote speaker for the 82nd Annual Meeting of Delta Council to be at 10:30 a.m. June 9, 2017, at the Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland. "We are so pleased that agriculture's friend from Georgia, Sonny Perdue, will be the featured speaker for this year's Delta Council Annual Meeting," said Simmons, an aquaculture and row crop farmer and catfish processor. The tradition of a fried catfish luncheon will conclude the program for the 82nd annual event on the grounds of the Quadrangle on the Delta State University Campus.
 
Tourism has major impact in Mississippi
Tourism has worked its way to the fourth largest industry in Mississippi. The state hosted 23 million visitors last year. Visit Mississippi is more than just a slogan. Tourism brought in $6.3 billion last year. "It's growing," said Mississippi Tourism Director Craig Ray. "Still recovering overall from (Hurricane) Katrina, but we're almost at the pre-Katrina numbers now." Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of Mexico in late summer 2005. Budget cuts will mean tourism officials turn more to social media ads, but a strong foundation in each of the communities' tourism offices will be help. "Tourism advertising is a true portfolio," added Ray. "There's all different ways you need to advertise the market to instate travelers to international travelers who typically invested five other states for five other parts of the country before they come to the South."
 
Threefoot Building rehabilitation clears federal hurdle
The developer of the Threefoot Building has received permission to rehabilitate the historic landmark from federal officials, removing one of the final obstacles to construction on the project. The project had stalled at one of its final stages while the developer waited for its application to be cleared by the National Parks Service. Concerns about retrofitting and reusing entrance doors, architecturally appropriate lighting and window details delayed the application. Final amendments to the application were made in mid-April. The NPS finally approved the application, submitted in December, after accepting the April amendments. City officials credited both Governor Phil Bryant and Senator Thad Cochran for helping to push the application through. The application estimates the rehabilitation of the 16-story building will cost $18.3 million.
 
March and April lead to rebound in state revenue
Personal income tax collections for April -- an astounding 36 percent above the amount collected in April 2016 -- have played a key role in helping state tax revenue recover for the current fiscal year. For much of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, the state was collecting less in revenue than it did the previous year. But a strong month of March in terms of corporate income tax collections and a strong month of April in terms of personal income tax collections have reversed that trend. Gov. Phil Bryant, who has been forced to make four rounds of budget cuts this fiscal year because of the sluggish revenue collections, said he is encouraged by the strong March and April collections. "I think we are moving in the right direction," he said recently.
 
Six lawmakers speak in Columbus about upcoming special session
Six lawmakers talked to Chamber of Commerce members Wednesday morning. Those legislators were Senators Chuck Younger and Angela Turner-Ford and Representatives Tyrone Ellis, Gary Chism, Kabir Karriem and Jeff Smith. "We have a dire need for our bridges that are in disrepair right now," District 38 Representative Democrat Tyrone Ellis. Roads and bridges could be on the agenda for a special session in Jackson next month. Funding for education and transportation improvements could come up. One of those funding options is a state lottery which Governor Phil Bryant says he wants to discuss. "I'm opposed to the state lottery," District 37 Representative Republican Gary Chism said. "If he brings it up, I think it's going to delay us getting out of there quickly, I think it'll be contentious on both sides."
 
School money fight arrives at state Supreme Court
Mississippi's statehouse may have been void of the fireworks once expected amid a looming school funding rewrite that fizzled out in the waning weeks of the 2017 legislative session. But the fight over school money is set to take another turn -- this time before the state Supreme Court. On May 17, Justices will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2015 on behalf of 21 school districts in the state, including the state's second-largest, Jackson Public Schools. At the heart of the dispute is the state's education formula called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which Musgrove as lieutenant governor helped guide to passage. The formula's calculations derive from the costs of operating an average or C school district.
 
Governor sets special election date for Mississippi House District 108
Gov. Phil Bryant has set a special election to fill a vacancy in the Mississippi House. The race is in District 108, entirely in Pearl River County. Republican Mark Formby had held the seat since 1993. He left the House last month after Bryant chose him to be chairman of the state Workers Compensation Commission. Candidates run without party labels in special elections. The qualifying deadline for this one is June 5 -- the same day that legislators start a special session to finish the state budget for the year that begins July 1. The special election is July 25.
 
Nearly $74K paid in legal fees in Mississippi election spat
The Mississippi public has paid nearly $74,000 to defend legislators in a federal lawsuit by voters who say they were disenfranchised in a state House race that went to a tiebreaker and was later flipped, according to records obtained by The Associated Press. Five-term Democratic incumbent Bo Eaton won the tiebreaker in a drawing of straws overseen by the secretary of state in late 2015. The House rejected some ballots after the term started in early 2016, making Republican Mark Tullos the winner and giving the GOP a three-fifths supermajority in the House. That margin enables Republicans to pass tax changes without any votes from Democrats. AP filed a public records request April 26 seeking information about payments to a private attorney, Michael Wallace, for representing Speaker Philip Gunn and others in the lawsuit.
 
Calling for new internet sales tax, Philadelphia leaders blame online shopping for retail sales dip
Economic development, business and political leaders blamed a sharp drop in sales tax returns on the Internet during a press conference on Tuesday on the court square where they urged passage of a new Internet tax. In a resolution passed by the Community Development Partnership on March 15 and later by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen and the Board of Supervisors, leaders urged a tax on Internet sales, although that notion was rejected by the Legislature when members were in session earlier this year. The resolutions come in wake of a 5-percent or $147,197.76 decrease in Philadelphia's sales tax collections from July 1 to date when compared to the same period the previous year, figures released by the Department of Revenue showed, although there is no direct proof the drop is due to the Internet. Steve Wilkerson, owner of Steve's on the Square, said a retail business can promote a 10 percent sale "and no one would get out of the chair and come." However, Wilkerson said, the sales tax holiday promotion, annually after the Fair, draws a crowd.
 
Ex-Education Department official gets state contract despite discrimination suit
A former top administrator in the Mississippi Department of Education who resigned amid allegations of sexual and racial discrimination was given a two-month, $48,000 contract with the department this month. J.P. Beaudoin's consulting company, Research in Action, Inc., was awarded the contract to create annual reports for schools as required by federal law. The purpose of the report cards is to provide information on state, district and individual school performance and progress in a uniform format. Because the contract was for less than $50,000, the Department was not required to seek other potential bidders for the work, according to state regulations. It is unclear whether the contract violates any state laws or rules and regulations of the Personal Service Contract Review Board, the entity that oversees state agencies' contracts.
 
State flag vote divides Biloxi officials, residents
Tension swirled around City Hall on Tuesday, beginning with advocates and opponents of the state flag taking sides during rallies at noon and continuing as a man was escorted from the City Council meeting at 6 p.m. during an outburst. It was clear most of the standing-room-only crowd at the council meeting Tuesday night were interested in just one agenda item: would the council pass an ordinance requiring the state flag to be flown over city buildings? Extra police officers had been posted throughout City Hall. Council President Dixie Newman frequently had to tell meeting attendees to stop being disrespectful and shouting out. "There's too much hatred in this room," one man said during citizens' comments. Some brought state flags to the council meeting, while others held up "1 Flag for All" signs.
 
Jeff Davis monument in New Orleans comes down after 106 years
A large police presence as well as large cranes and heavy equipment were all part of the removal of the monument to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis early Thursday. Workers who showed up to work on the removal were again shrouded with masks and dark clothing as the city has said there have been threats made against those participating in the removal. The monument to Jefferson Davis was erected in 1911 and had stood in its location at the corner of Jefferson Davis Parkway and Canal Street for 106 years. Crews showed up shortly after 3 a.m. and the actual removal of the statue was done shortly after 5 a.m. as a sling and bubble wrap were put around the statue before it was hoisted in the air and laid down on the bed of a truck. "This morning we continue our march to reconciliation by removing the Jefferson Davis Confederate statue from its pedestal of reverence," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a statement.
 
Sen. Roger Wicker comments on Trump firing FBI director
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker says President Trump needs to appoint someone with "sterling character, impeccable credentials and experience" to replace fired FBI Director James Comey. The Republican from Tupelo made that comment on the Fox Business Network Wednesday when asked about the criticism by Democrats and Republicans of Comey's termination, which came Tuesday while leading the investigation into Russia's involvement in the presidential election. "I think once that person gets in place and the investigation goes forward as it should go, I think this hysteria will calm down, and we'll move on to other substantive issues," said Wicker.
 
Ole Miss' graduation commencement changes designed to make ceremonies more enjoyable
Students, families and other visitors will notice a few changes in the University of Mississippi's 164th Commencement ceremony, set for 9 a.m. Saturday in the Grove. The most visible change will be the elimination of the processional for students at the morning convocation, a move made to save time and make the entire day's activities more enjoyable and meaningful for all participants, said Noel Wilkin, interim UM provost. Individual school ceremonies later in the day include student processionals. "We are hoping that this change will prevent the morning ceremony from encroaching on the start of other ceremonies that day and give people ample time to get between events," Wilkin added.
 
New program: USM psychology students serve as mentors
Aerial Holmes saw no downside to participating in a new program offered to senior psychology majors at the University of Southern Mississippi. The Psychology Scholars program gives high-achieving students the opportunity to serve as mentors to incoming freshmen and transfer students in the department and allows them to network with psychology faculty to gain their own knowledge on life after college. "I will be helping younger students find their way, and I can get advice from professors," Holmes said. "That's very beneficial." Holmes applied for the program in the fall of her junior year. Beginning in the fall, she'll be a mentor and attend specialized workshops presented by department faculty members to provide information about graduate school applications and future careers.
 
USM veterans official Michael McGee named president of statewide organization
Michael McGee, senior veterans affairs certification official at the University of Southern Mississippi, has been elected President of the Veterans Affairs Administrators of Mississippi, a statewide organization consisting of college and universities dedicated to improving services to student-veterans, service members and their families. McGee, who will serve a two-year term, retired from the Army following a 23-year career and continues to serve assisting military students with the USM Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families. Mississippi has 100 VAAMS members who work together to promote professional competency, efficiency and further facilitate communication between educational institutions (and sponsors of veterans programs) through an exchange of ideas, information and experience.
 
USM Luckyday Program Set to Top 1,000 Graduates this Spring
"Jessica Adcock. Zachary Agee. Leah Alda." One by one, names of senior Luckyday Scholars were called as The Luckyday Foundation Executive Director Patricia Smith and board member Kristin Merrell bestowed the Luckyday graduation stoles on the scholars. This graduating class from The University of Southern Mississippi will hold a unique spot in the history of the program as it brings the number of Luckyday alumni to over 1,000. The Luckyday Citizenship Scholars Program began in the fall of 2002. With the initial class of 94 students, the program grew each year, adding around 100-130 each fall as new classes entered the University. The first graduating class of 2006 included 72 students who became the first Luckyday alumni, and with that a new chapter of the Luckyday Program began.
 
Meridian Community College shatters all-time graduation record
An all-time record spring term graduating class will receive their diplomas and certificates when Meridian Community Colleges holds commencement exercises Friday at Evangel Temple, according to Soraya Welden, MCC dean of student services. Welden reported that some 556 students have applied to graduate – the highest number ever for an MCC spring commencement program. The college will split that number into two commencement services, one for nursing programs at 11:30 a.m., and another for all other graduates at 4 p.m. MCC holds three commencements each school year in August, December and May. For the year, the college will have graduated some 923 students, which is also a record number. "I couldn't be more pleased with the all-time number of students this year at MCC who finished what they started and graduated," said Dr. Scott Elliott, college president.
 
Mother crosses Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College stage in memory of son
The mother of the Ocean Springs resident who died in a tragic accident just a few months ago is honoring his memory. Staff members at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College say Lisa Husley -- the mother of 20-year-old Braydon Hester, who died after falling from a truck during a Mardi Gras parade -- walked in her son's graduation ceremony at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center Wednesday night. "It's very hard for me. This is a very emotional day, but it meant so much to my son. [The] least I can do is put his cap and gown on and make the walk for him tonight," Husley. Hester started at MGCCC in July of 2016. He finished his coursework in the adult education program in December. Now, Husley is enrolled at the school, pursuing her high school equivalency and human services certificate. "Every day she comes in, she says, 'I'm doing this for Braydon.' She said, 'I'm not going to let him down,'" recalled teacher Kelly Parker.
 
New U. of Tennessee vice chancellor for communications says transparency will be a priority
As incoming vice chancellor for communications at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Ryan Robinson said he is eager to work with the media and make transparency a priority. "I'm not naive," said Robinson, who is currently the senior associate athletic director for communications at UT and takes over as vice chancellor May 17. "I know working at a major university that there are going to be issues that come up that we have to deal with. The key thing is communicating." Robinson, who earned $145,000 in the athletics department, will make a salary of $225,000 in the new role overseeing communications and marketing for all of UT Knoxville. As a spokesman for the athletics department, Robinson saw the university through a federal lawsuit accusing the campus of fostering a hostile sexual environment in violation of Title IX.
 
Tennessee Law Is Hailed as Offering Unprecedented Protection of Campus Speech
A new Tennessee law prohibits public colleges from disinviting speakers based on their controversial viewpoints or from charging student groups higher security fees to host speakers expected to trigger unrest. Among its other provisions, the measure, signed on Tuesday by Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, requires colleges to adopt broad protections of free expression consistent with a landmark statement adopted in 2015 by the University of Chicago. It also bars public colleges from limiting students' speech to specific sections of a campus, denying funds to student groups based on their viewpoints, or punishing faculty members for classroom speech germane to the subjects they teach. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit advocacy group, advised Tennessee lawmakers on the bill.
 
Former U. of Florida AD Jeremy Foley to become Prof of Practice in Sport Leadership
It's been less than a year since Jeremy Foley announced he was retiring after 25 years as Florida's athletics director. Meanwhile, Foley has remained at the university as Emeritus Athletics Director, but he'll be adding another title to his ever-expanding resume. Beginning Fall 2017, Foley will serve as a Professor of Practice in Sport Leadership, according to a press release from the University of Florida's Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management. His future duties will include speaking lectures to both undergraduate and graduate students across multiple courses, as well as an annual seminar on Leading People and Organizations in Athletics.
 
Organic business, U. of Florida in hot seat over compost controversy
Gardening with organic fertilizer can be messy. More so, if the material used isn't actually organic. Over the last few weeks, some Alachua County gardeners have discovered the compost they bought from a local business contained herbicide that killed some plants and vegetables. The business, Floyd's Organic Soil, had been selling the compost, which it received for free from the University of Florida, for roughly $35 per cubic yard. Representatives for UF and Floyd's Organic Soil said they had no idea the contents were contaminated, but neither checked to see if it was. "We certainly recognize it's a serious matter considering certain organic farms will be impacted by this," said UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes. At some point in April 2016, employees at UF's dairy farm in Hague, northwest of Gainesville, sprayed an herbicide known as GrazonNext HL over a hay field.
 
New Orleans entrepreneur, LSU alumnus booted off Whole Foods board as chairman
Whole Foods announced a board shake-up Wednesday, replacing John Elstrott, a New Orleans entrepreneur and LSU alum who had served as chairman since 2009, as it fights to hold onto shoppers who have more choices about where to buy the natural and organic foods the chain is known for. The company also said sales fell 2.8 percent at established locations for the three months that ended April 9, the seventh straight quarter in which the closely watched measure has declined. Whole Foods has blamed its struggles on customers increasingly turning to "good enough alternatives." Overall competition is also intensifying, with more places where people can get groceries. Elstrott had served as a director of Whole Foods since 1995. The LSU graduate taught at Tulane University's Freeman School of Business for more than 30 years, founding the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship and the Tulane Family Business Center.
 
Record number of Aggies graduating this month
A record 10,074 Aggie degrees will be delivered this month during graduations in College Station, Fort Worth, Galveston, Kingsville and Dallas. The ceremonies will feature the highest number of bachelor's degrees (7,273), master's degrees (1,903), professional degrees (558) and doctoral degrees (339) for any one semester in the history of Texas A&M and the state of Texas, officials said. Students earning doctoral degrees in veterinary medicine graduated Wednesday in College Station, but the largest ceremonies are yet to come. The largest ceremony will be at Kyle Field when the College of Engineering honors its graduates Saturday.
 
Pilgrim's Pride gifts $1 million to Texas A&M poultry science
The poultry science department at Texas A&M University's department of animal science is receiving a historic gift that will help modernize some of its aging equipment. It was announced earlier this week Pilgrim's Pride has dedicated a $1 million gift through the Texas A&M Foundation for the purpose of replacing the program's 54-year-old feed mill. "This is the largest single gift ever given to the poultry science department," said Texas A&M Vice Chancellor and dean of Texas A&M University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Mark Hussey in a statement. "It will allow us to expand and elevate our research capacity, as well as provide further opportunities to our students," Professor and department head David Caldwell said the gift is expected to make a substantial impact on the capabilities of researchers to continue their work.
 
Furor over Texas A&M philosopher's comments on violence against white people
Tommy Curry, an associate professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University, has a long history of public statements about U.S. race relations. But he became the target of controversy, online threats and race-based harassment this week after The American Conservative ran a piece about him that drew heavily on a 2012 podcast interview about violence against whites in the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained. The article, called "When Is It OK to Kill Whites?" quotes Curry as saying in the podcast, "In order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people might have to die." Curry isn't exactly misquoted, but his statement was part of a larger point about how, in his view, questions about violence against whites need to be addressed through a historical lens and how blacks need to reclaim conversations about the Second Amendment to highlight their own concerns about protection from race-based violence.
 
U. of Missouri planning for 12 percent cut to academic operations
Preliminary budget plans call for a 12 percent cut to academic operations on the University of Missouri's Columbia campus in the coming year, with layoffs likely and the first program consolidation already announced, interim Chancellor Garnett Stokes wrote in an email distributed across campus. Cuts to other campuses and system administration, while substantial, will be smaller. The size of the cut, Stokes wrote, "will unquestionably impact our workforce, facilities and the breadth of services we provide. Good people and good programs will be affected." A second consecutive sharp drop in enrollment on the Columbia campus and state budget cuts of about 6.7 percent for all state colleges and universities are forcing the moves.
 
Americans see value in higher education, survey finds, but are unhappy with current system
Americans see the value in getting a college degree, but they're not particularly happy with our nation's higher education system. Those are among the results from a new survey conducted by New America, a think tank based in Washington. The report, which New America plans to update annually, is based on a survey of 1,600 American adults. The group probed people's perceptions of higher education and economic mobility, with the results broken out by age, gender, region and socioeconomic status. Fully three-quarters of respondents said it's easier to be successful with a degree than without one, in a finding that generally transcended the race of respondents. Yet 51 percent believe that plenty of well-paying jobs do not require going to college, despite solid evidence to the contrary. Of concern for colleges and universities, just one in four of the survey's respondents feel higher education is functioning fine the way it is.
 
Boos and Protests Mark Betsy DeVos's Speech at Bethune-Cookman
Edison O. Jackson, the president of Bethune-Cookman University, approached the lectern at the event center here on Wednesday -- standing in front of soon-to-be-graduates and more than 3,000 of their family members, friends, and supporters, at the opening of the university's spring commencement ceremony. "Turn and face forward," he said. The students turned in step. What followed was less uniform. A wave of anticipation had been building in the campus community and across the country in the days leading up to the historically black college's graduation ceremony. The reason: Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, would be delivering the commencement address. The atmosphere on Wednesday as Ms. DeVos delivered her speech is indicative of a greater issue the Trump administration faces. It all came to a head on Wednesday.
 
Economics Expert Outlines Steps to Help West Virginia
An internationally known economic development expert told a crowd at Marshall University Wednesday that higher education institutions can be the key to growing a state's economy. Malcolm Portera, a chancellor emeritus of the University of Alabama System, was at Marshall to outline ideas and initiatives he's headed in Mississippi and Alabama to improve the economy there. The 71-year-old Portera has helped the southeast with programs that have driven the manufacturing back to the region resulting in $15 billion in capital investments. Portera said much of that economic investment is tied to the universities and was accomplished during his time at Mississippi State University and with the University of Alabama System. Portera said after having conversations with Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert, he realizes West Virginia faces economic challenges, but he said universities can make a positive change.
 
Reform a good first step
Jackson-based consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "At the end of this year a new campaign finance regime begins in Mississippi. The new law (SB2689), passed by the legislature this past session and signed by the governor, specifically prohibits the use of campaign contributions for personal use; although it does still permit the use of campaign donations to fund costs associated with 'holding office' including certain meals, travel and accommodation. While much of the discussion on the need for campaign finance reform involved legislators and statewide candidates, the new prohibitions and requirements apply to all candidates including county and municipal offices. Candidates for county or municipal office may now file their campaign finance reports directly with the Secretary of State. They were previously only allowed to file with their county clerk or municipal clerk, who was then required to forward those reports to the Secretary of State. It's a good first step, but now the Secretary of State should post all those reports online."


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State continues APR excellence
Each of Mississippi State's varsity sports have excelled in the NCAA's annual report of Academic Progress Rates (APR), the association announced Wednesday afternoon. In the latest multi-year rate, the NCAA postseason bound women's tennis team led the way with a perfect 1,000 APR. Golf paced all Bulldog men's teams with a mark of 988. In addition, five MSU teams produced a perfect 1,000 APR for the past academic year -- men's golf, men's tennis, women's basketball, women's tennis and volleyball. "We are proud that our programs continue to raise the standard of excellence in NCAA academic progress rates," MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen said. "Our student-athletes understand that performance in the classroom is a priority. Our APR scores are a reflection of the outstanding work of our student-athletes, coaches, academic staff and compliance staff."
 
Mississippi State's Andy Cannizaro previews Georgia series
No. 7 Mississippi State will attempt to stay atop the SEC standings this weekend and also try to win back-to-back road series as it travels to Georgia. Bulldogs' coach Andy Cannizaro gives his comments on the series as well as the pitching rotation and injury updates on Hunter Stovall, Spencer Price and Ryan Rigby.
 
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker Making Return To School Pay Off
Near the end of last spring, when Mississippi State's draft-eligible players were starting to weigh whether they were ready to start their professional careers, then-head coach John Cohen and then-hitting coach Nick Mingione sat down for a meeting with Brent Rooker. Rooker was in the midst of a strong finish to his redshirt sophomore season. He would end up hitting .324/.376/.578 with a team-high 11 home runs and 54 RBIs for the Southeastern Conference regular-season champions. If he wanted to, he would have the chance to go out in the draft, though likely not on the draft's first day like his teammate Dakota Hudson, who was the final player selected in the first round. So when Rooker met with Cohen and Mingione, they advised him to stay in college for another year. "You need to come back here and be the SEC player of the year because you're that good," Mingione told Rooker. "You can do that."
 
Denver McQuary making his name on the mound for Bulldogs
Denver McQuary will always be remembered for his exploits on the football field. The former All-State defensive back from Houston High School broke Steve McNair's state interception record and finished his prep career with 33 picks. Nowadays, McQuary is making a name for himself on the mound at Mississippi State. The freshman right-hander pitched five strong innings to pick-up the win at Texas A&M over the weekend and has earned the role as the Bulldogs' Saturday starter. "The more he's gone out there, the better he's done," said MSU coach Andy Cannizaro. "His fastball command has gotten better. His strike-throwing ability has gotten better. He's starting to really command his change-up and developing a really good feel for his breaking ball."
 
Mississippi State's Jake Mangum continues to deal with broken left hand
Jake Mangum, Mississippi State's switch-hitting and leadoff-man dynamo, did something new over the weekend. He batted from the left side of the plate against a southpaw. He didn't have much of a choice, either. "I can't swing a bat right-handed," Mangum said. When dealing with a broken left hand, there are just some things you aren't able to do. Among the other things the sophomore centerfielder cannot do in relation to baseball: pitch, take batting practice, work on his swing and, yeah, throw a baseball consecutive times, considering he is left-handed. "It's been a grind of a month," Mangum said. "It's just been tough. You got one hand when you swing... it's hard, but it's getting better slowly."
 
U. of Alabama's APR scores show positive trend
The University of Alabama men's and women's athletic teams continued to perform solidly in the NCAA release of APR (Academic Progress Rate) data for the 2015-16 measuring period, a span covering academic performance from 2012-2016. Five UA programs -- men's cross country, women's tennis, women's golf, women's swimming and diving and gymnastics -- received perfect scores of 1000. The Crimson Tide football program received a score of 980, tied for second place (with Auburn and Florida) in the 14-member Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt led the SEC football programs with a 992 score. Nationally, both Northwestern and Air Force posted 995 scores, tying for the top spot. "I am pleased that we continue to post strong numbers when it comes to the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate," UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne said via a University release.
 
4 Auburn athletic programs earn perfect APR scores
The NCAA's Academic Progress Rate Institutional Report is out, and four of Auburn's athletic programs earned perfect scores for the four-year period that ended in 2015-16. APR is a measurement of retention of student-athletes from year to year and academic progress toward graduation. Auburn women's cross country, women's golf, women's gymnastics and women's tennis all earned multi-year scores of 1,000, meaning that for all four academic years from 2012 through 2016, all of the student-athletes on those teams remained academically eligible and either returned for the following season or graduated. "To see our student-athletes achieving academically at a consistently high level is most gratifying," Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said in a statement.
 
LSU football Academic Progress Rate makes big jump
The LSU football team's Academic Progress Rate score is back to normal. The Tigers' multiyear APR score improved 18 points to 959, meeting the national average for other public institution football teams, according to NCAA documents released Wednesday. Four LSU athletic teams had a score under the public school average for their respected sport -- none of them by more than four points. Baseball (966), women's basketball (975), gymnastics (990) and soccer (983) all fell just three to four points shy of meeting the national public school average. All of them are well clear of the NCAA's APR penalty benchmark. Teams need to be at or above a 930 to avoid penalties, such as practice time and scholarship reductions.
 
U. of Florida athletics above mark in APR
All 19 of Florida's athletic programs posted scores of 971 or higher in NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores released Wednesday. Florida's football APR score was 980, above the national average of 962. UF's men's basketball was at 990, above the national average of 966. Men's tennis, women's golf and women's tennis posted perfect 1000 scores. Those three programs, along with men's basketball, were recognized last week for being within the top 10 percentile in the nation in their respective sports. "In athletics, we keep score, not just on the playing field but also in the classroom," Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said. "These recent APR scores show that University of Florida student athletes not only win championships, but perform at a high level in their academic pursuits."
 
Aggie men's basketball team improves APR score again
The Texas A&M men's basketball program, once in danger of being penalized for low academic scores under the NCAA's Academic Progress Report guidelines, now tops the school's men's sports in the latest APR. The program improved its score 15 points in the results released Wednesday, posting a team-best mark of 989 for data submitted for the four academic-year span from 2012-16. The A&M men's basketball team has posted gains the last three years, going from 912 in the 2012-13 multi-year report to 944, 974 and now 989. The program opened with an 891 in 2005-06, the first year for the APR. A&M was well above the standard in all 17 NCAA-sponsored programs monitored by the APR by achieving a multi-year rate of 951 or higher on a 1,000-point scale. The Southeastern Conference had 13 men's and 24 women's programs earn perfect scores.
 
Missouri men's basketball escapes NCAA sanctions after APR released
The Missouri men's basketball team remains eligible for next year's postseason after the NCAA released Academic Progress Report scores Wednesday for all schools and their athletic programs. The Tigers barely kept their heads above water with a single-year score of 930 and a four-year rolling average of 934. The single-year score is a reflection of the 2015-16 academic year. Had Missouri fallen short of a four-year average of 930, it would have been subjected to NCAA sanctions -- potentially having to sit out a year of postseason play. Missouri will need to score at least a 961 next season in order to maintain the minimum threshold. For the 2014-15 academic year, the basketball team scored a 976 --- a 125 point increase from Frank Haith's final season in Columbia a year earlier, when the Tigers garnered an 851. The score for men's basketball was the lowest the school received.
 
U. of Tennessee's Butch Jones due $100,000 bonus for APR score
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones will receive a bonus of $100,000 because the Vols' single-season Academic Progress Rate, which was released by the NCAA on Wednesday, exceed 965. Tennessee recorded a single-year score of 978 in 2015-16 and has a four-year score of 972, which is a program best. UT men's basketball coach Rick Barnes would have been due $25,000 had his team achieved a single-year score of 960, according to the terms of his contract. But the basketball program's single-year score slipped 42 points in the past year, from 980 to 938. Since the APR was introduced in 2004, the Vanderbilt football team's three highest scores have come during Derek Mason's tenure, including 983 in 2013-14 and 990 in 2014-15. Five Vanderbilt teams posted a perfect score of 1,000 in its most recent multi-year rate. Men's basketball had Vanderbilt's lowest score of 976.
 
Seven South Carolina Gamecocks teams post perfect APR scores
The latest NCAA APR numbers are good for South Carolina. Seven USC teams posted perfect scores in the latest multi-year numbers, which run through 2015-2016. Women's basketball and Baseball were the highest profile teams with perfect scores, along with men's tennis, beach volleyball, women's swimming and diving, women' tennis and indoor volleyball rounded out the list. Football and men's basketball posted scores of 970, both in the top half of their respective sports. "Our 'Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise' outlines the commitment that we make to our student-athletes in their efforts to achieve this greatness," South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said in a statement. "Our APR numbers are a reflection of their efforts as well as those of our coaches and academic support staff."
 
17 D-I teams don't make NCAA grade, banned from postseason
The NCAA said 17 Division I teams across a variety of sports will be ineligible for postseason play in 2017-18 as a result of low Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, down from 23 last year. The APR measures eligibility and progress toward graduation for athletes, and schools must achieve a score of 930 (out of 1,000) to avoid penalties. Teams ruled ineligible for the postseason tilt heavily toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including the men's basketball programs at Alabama A&M, Grambling and Savannah State. Four teams at Southern University will miss the 2017-18 postseason including men's baseball, men's cross country, men's track and women's cross country. The most high-profile school facing penalties is Southeast Missouri State, whose men's basketball team is banned from the 2017-18 postseason.
 
Florida's Jim McElwain gets proactive on scooter safety, with helmets, seminar
Florida football coach Jim McElwain has always gotten a nervous pang in the pit of his stomach whenever he sees any of his players motoring around campus on a scooter without wearing a helmet. That uneasy feeling turned into fear a few weeks ago with a late-night phone call informing him starting center T.J. McCoy had been in a scooter accident and was in the hospital. "Obviously, when something occurs, it really brings it home when it's someone you actually know," McElwain said. "That's what makes it real. Sometimes through bad comes good." The good is that McCoy's injuries were not life-threatening and he has recovered -- and the accident accelerated McElwain's plan to better educate and protect the players when it comes to operating scooters. That plan has been executed this week.
 
U. of South Carolina ready to make splash with gleaming new track facility
Curtis Frye doesn't look back. The coach of South Carolina's first team national champion could have said this was long overdue, that maybe he deserved this much sooner than he actually got it. It's here now, ready to be unveiled to the world, and Frye has no bitterness. "If you can't run, then you crawl, walk, whatever you can do, to keep moving forward," the Gamecocks' longtime track and field coach said. "Granted, we ran into the future. We got an administration that saw all of our athletes given an opportunity to compete on a high level. Now we're looking to how many great things can happen from this day forward." The Gamecocks' gleaming new facility, the Sheila and Morris Cregger Track, has been in operation during the outdoor track season but will be shown off to the rest of the SEC and the country this week. The SEC Outdoor Championships are being hosted by USC Thursday-Saturday and many athletes who ran on the Olympic track in Rio de Janeiro will try their luck on the Gamecocks' turf.



The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: May 11, 2017Facebook Twitter