Tuesday, May 23, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Center on MSU-Meridian campus named for U.S. Rep. G.V. 'Sonny' Montgomery
A new advisement and career services center at the Mississippi State University-Meridian campus will now bear the name of the late U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery. The facility, which opened in 2016, was dedicated in Montgomery's name -- a Meridian native and MSU alumnus -- during a ceremony Friday at the MSU-Meridian College Park campus. The center receives funding from MSU and the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Foundation and now occupies the space that formerly housed the Barnes and Noble bookstore. A media release from MSU says the center serves as a "front door" for the College Park campus, which provides academic advisers to help students transitioning from a two-year college to a four-year degree program.
Johnny Moore, Lynn Spruill both seek ballot box examinations
Mayoral candidate Johnny Moore and Mayor-elect Lynn Spruill have both filed requests with the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party to review the results of last week's runoff election. The two campaigns are seeking full examinations of the ballot boxes from the city's seven wards this week. Spruill and her attorney, Lydia Quarles, have requested their examination to take place Thursday, while Columbus attorney William Starks requested a Friday viewing on Moore's behalf. Both examinations are exercises in due diligence ahead of a potential Moore challenge with the party, after the Starkville Election Commission certified a six-vote Spruill victory Thursday. The two candidates had 12 days from certification to request the ballot box reviews. The two reviews are not expected to be open to the public or media.
Speaker: Transportation talks ongoing for special session
Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said Monday that discussions are ongoing between the House and Senate on identifying possible sources of more revenue for transportation needs. But Gunn conceded during a luncheon meeting of the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government/capitol press corps that he does not know if an agreement would be reached in time for the issue to be taken up during the June 5 special session. "I don't know if the governor would put any of these items (potential sources of new revenue for transportation) in the call (agenda) unless we told him we had an agreement with the Senate," Gunn said, when asked if enhanced transportation funding might be included in the special session. "If we don't reach a consensus before the special session, we will continue these discussions toward next year. It is not something we are going to forget. I think we all realize...it is our responsibility," Gunn said.
Lottery debate not expected during special session, says House speaker
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn says he does not expect legislators to debate the creation of a state lottery during a special session next month. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is calling lawmakers back to the Capitol starting June 5 to write budgets for the attorney general and the Department of Transportation for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Gunn spoke Monday at a forum sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government. In response to a question, Gunn said he does not expect Bryant to put a potentially time-consuming issue like a lottery on the session's agenda. "I think something of that magnitude ...is going to require an enormous amount of study and analysis," said Gunn, a Republican from Clinton. "I don't know that we have time to analyze that and digest it within the next three weeks."
State representative calls for lynchings, then apologizes
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, condemned a Facebook post in support of "lynchings" made by freshman Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, and stripped him of his vice chairmanship of the Forestry Committee. "I have done what I think is appropriate and immediate," said Gunn, who addressed the controversial statements at the start of his speech Monday before the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government/capitol press corps. Gunn, who called Oliver early Monday morning, urged him to apologize. By the time Gunn spoke at lunch Monday, the Montgomery County funeral director had issued an apology for posting on his social media page over the weekend that the leadership in New Orleans spearheading the "Nazi-ish" removal of Civil War monuments "should be lynched. Let it be known I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening our state."
Golden Triangle reps respond to colleague's lynching post
Local legislators on both sides of the aisle are criticizing a colleague's recent Facebook post about the removal of Confederate statues in New Orleans. District 46 Rep. Karl Oliver (R-Winona), posted on Saturday night that Louisiana leadership should be "lynched" for the decision to remove the statues. WJTV in Jackson first reported the story. Mississippi District 37 Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) called Oliver's post "atrocious," and said Oliver expressed himself in a way that was "very racist." District 38 Rep. Tyrone Ellis (D-Starkville) said he was stunned by the comment and said Oliver should resign immediately. District 41 Rep. Kabir Karriem (D-Columbus) also sharply criticized Oliver's statements. District 17 Sen. Chuck Younger (R-Columbus) said he disagreed with Oliver's tone. "I think the word lynched that he used was very wrong," Younger said. "I think his motive was good, but his words were bad."
Rep. Karl Oliver apologizes for using hate language
Rep. Karl Oliver, the Republican from Winona who incited a social media uproar after calling for the lynching of Louisiana officials who removed Confederate monuments from New Orleans, issued an apology late Monday morning. Gov. Phil Bryant and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, along with other Republican officials, denounced Oliver's statement. Gunn called on Oliver to apologize. At a Stennis Institute-Capitol Press Forum, Gunn told a room full of press, lobbyists and other government stakeholders that he revoked Oliver's position as vice-chairman of the House Forestry Committee. He also reiterated the statement he made earlier Monday morning, saying there is no stronger word to use than "condemn" for Oliver's "unfortunate social media episode."
Medical board severs ties with executive director John Hall
The Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure decided not to renew its contract with Dr. John Hall, its executive director, on Thursday, less than a year after Hall brought his aggressive style to bear on physicians' sexual behavior with patients. "I'd like to think I did some good," Hall said in an interview on Saturday. "We did more disciplinary action in the first 90 days I was here than [Dr. H.] Vann Craig did in 10 years" in that position, he said. In those three months, about a half-dozen doctors surrendered their licenses and another half-dozen licenses were indefinitely suspended. Hall said he was not "the least bit surprised" by his termination. Dr. Charles Miles, board president, said on Saturday that the termination is a personnel matter and he is limited in what he can say.
Navy to break ground on solar facility at Meridian base
The U.S. Navy has announced a groundbreaking ceremony for a solar generation facility at a base in Mississippi. A Navy statement says the project on Naval Air Station Meridian will be commemorated Thursday afternoon. The Navy, Tennessee Valley Authority, East Mississippi Electric Power Association and Silicon Ranch Corporation have partnered to develop the facility that will generate up to six megawatts of direct current power.
Rick Perry: I'll be 'strong advocate' for Oak Ridge, Department of Energy
Newly appointed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry toured several labs at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex Monday, a day before President Donald Trump's detailed budget was to be released. After riding a 3D-printed excavator and driving around a 3D-printed vehicle, Perry's message to Department of Energy officials and employees was: I know how to run a budget, and will be a "strong advocate" for the Department of Energy. According to Science Magazine, Trump's proposed budget would cut $900 million, some 17 percent, of the $5 billion budget for DOE's Office of Science. And it would eliminate DOE's roughly $300 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. "I know how to budget, I know how to manage and I know how to prioritize. Obviously what you see here, I happen to think is a high priority," he said.
FBI nearly doubles staff at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
The FBI is expanding its presence at the world's busiest airport, where it works to help protect against everything from human trafficking to hijackings. On international Concourse E at Hartsfield-Jackson, the FBI will have about a dozen FBI agents and task force officers and a special agent supervisor. They will work on the front lines on incidents or criminal issues at the airport. The FBI's responsibilities include special aircraft jurisdiction matters such as hijackings, interference with a flight crew and assaults on aircraft. The FBI also works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on human trafficking and counter-terrorism efforts, according to FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett. As the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson is "a potential target for various types of threats," according to city documents. The FBI's new office space is "exclusive and highly secure," according to the airport.
ISIS Claims Responsibility for Manchester Concert Attack; Toll Rises to 22
The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Tuesday for the bombing at Manchester Arena, the deadliest terrorist assault in Britain since 2005, as the death toll rose to 22. The bomb tore through an entrance hall of the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena at about 10:30 p.m. on Monday as a concert by the American pop star Ariana Grande was ending and as crowds of teenagers had begun to leave, many for an adjacent train station. Pandemonium ensued, as panicked adolescents struggled to connect with parents and guardians waiting outside to pick them up. As well as those killed, dozens of other people were wounded in the attack; 59 were hospitalized, some with life-threatening injuries. As condolences poured in from around the world, the authorities in Britain reacted with horror and anger at an attack that appeared to have targeted adolescents and their families.
Mississippi Valley president pick to lead JSU
Three days after Mississippi State Valley University President William Bynum sat before the state College Board to update members on his university's progress, trustees have named the Delta Devils' head as their top choice for the next leader of Jackson State University. Trustee C.D. Smith, who chaired the Board Search Committee, announced Bynum's selection Monday. Trustees launched a national search last fall after former president Carolyn Meyers stepped down. "We believe we have found someone who has the background and the leadership skills necessary to lead this institution through its present challenges and work with the Jackson State family to develop and implement a vision for the future," Smith said. Getting a "firm grasp" on JSU's finances, Bynum said, is his first priority.
Mississippi Valley's Bynum Named 'Preferred Candidate' for Jackson State Top Role
The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning announced Monday the selection of Dr. William B. Bynum as the preferred candidate for President of Jackson State University. Dr. Bynum currently serves as President of Mississippi Valley State University. Dr. Bynum was recommended by the Board Search Committee, chaired by Trustee C.D. Smith, with input from the Campus Search Advisory Committee and the Interview Search Advisory Committee. Dr. Bynum is a graduate of Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., where he was a student-athlete, and holds a doctorate from Duke University, where he was a Duke Endowment Fellow. He has 30 years of experience in higher education. A native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Dr. Bynum was named the seventh president of Mississippi Valley State University in 2013.
College Board announces choice for Jackson State president
William Bynum Jr. has been the president of Mississippi Valley State since 20-13. The College Board chose Bynum out of eight candidates to lead Jackson State. Higher Education Commissioner Glenn Boyce says Bynum's achievements at Valley State made him fit for the position. "Some of the things he did that were really caught the eye certainly I would think of the trustees would be the enrollment increases, because he's competing against seven other state intuitions and in today's higher ed competition out of state schools everybody's trying to get as many students as they can," Boyce said. Jackson State alumni and others had voiced concern that trustees would choose someone unacceptable for their campus. State Representative Jarvis Dortch, a Jackson State graduate, is urging fellow alumni to support Bynum. "We've had a trying couple of years, so anything that we can do to support Dr. Bynum and make this a positive change for the university I'm going to work at," he said.
IHL prefers Valley's president take JSU's top job
Dr. William B. Bynum, president of Mississippi Valley State University, is the preferred candidate for president of Jackson State University, the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees search committee announced Monday. "It's going to be a tough process, but I have no doubt about it that I'll be able," said Bynum, who has served as president of MVSU since November 2013. Immediately after the announcement, Jackson State alumni and other constituents who have been critical of the selection process began to walk out in protest. "I am shocked, because Dr. Bynum was a part of the pool of candidates and he did not make the second round (of interviews)," said Dr. Jean-Claud Assad, appointed co-chair of the campus search advisory committee and member of the interview search committee. "IHL is going to have to answer to this," said Assad.
IHL names preferred candidate for vacant Jackson State University presidency
After waiting almost seven months to find out who their next university president could be, alumni of Jackson State walked out, disappointed that Dr. William B. Bynum Jr. has been named the preferred candidate for the job. Dr. Bynum currently serves as president of Mississippi Valley State University where the IHL board says he's secured millions of dollars in grants and increased the school's enrollment by over 11 percent. "We don't believe he's a good fit for Jackson State University," said JSU alumnus Dr. McKinnley Alexander. "We know that we have qualified graduates from JSU and it's apparent to us that no one was looking for the person who could do the most for our university. For that reason, we are all unhappy." Dr. Bynum says while he understands alumni were hoping one of their own Tigers would get the job, he hopes to meet and win over the hearts of all JSU alumni chapters and help the University overcome the current challenges it faces.
Hillary Clinton eulogizes longtime friend, Carolyn Ellis Staton, at Ole Miss
Former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton eulogized her longtime friend and law school roommate, Carolyn Ellis Staton, at a memorial service in Oxford today. Staton, who was the first female provost at the University of Mississippi, died at her home in Oxford on Friday at age 71. Clinton, who has made few public appearances after losing the presidential election to Donald Trump in November, first met Staton at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn. In a 17-minutes eulogy delivered to about 200 attendees at Paris Yates Chapel Monday morning, Clinton praised the life and work of Staton and the relationships she built. She recalled several instances in which Staton championing of women's causes while at Yale in the late 1960s and early 1970s and beyond.
Groups hope pop-up project improves Gertrude Ford Blvd. on Ole Miss campus
Two years ago, the Oxford Pathways Commission used the less busy summer months to try several different temporary reconfigurations of University Avenue in front of the Gertrude Ford Performing Arts Center to make the road safer for bikers and pedestrians. This year, their focus is on Gertrude Ford Boulevard. Pathways, along with the University of Mississippi Transportation Advisory Committee, will be doing pop-up projects along the boulevard to see what works, and what doesn't work to improve the safety along the road for all users. "Two years ago we did a pop-up on University Avenue and I believe it helped identify the need for the two mid-block crossings that were added later that year," said Pathways Commission member Kate Kellum. The UM Green Fund has provided a $5,000 grant for the pop-up project.
East Mississippi Community College one of 4 colleges to participate in Gates Foundation initiative
East Mississippi Community College is among four community colleges nationwide chosen to participate in a new initiative to improve student success rates through a grant funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. InsideTrack, which works with colleges and universities to help increase student enrollment, degree completion and career readiness, will partner with EMCC, Austin Community College, Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College and a California-based college yet to be selected to implement the new initiative. "We don't yet know the full benefits participation in this new initiative will provide to students at East Mississippi Community College," EMCC President Thomas Huebner said. "The changes represent a fundamental shift in our institutional culture that will magnify our efforts to provide individualized attention to each and every student."
Auburn President Jay Gogue reflects on 10 years of successes and challenges
Less than a month until his departure, Auburn University President Jay Gogue sat at his desk listening to the plea of a student who had overslept and missed his business school interview. Gogue listened and tried to help, just as he aimed to do 10 years earlier when he returned to the southern land grant university nestled in east Alabama where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees years before. It's "just little stuff" that matters, he said. Gogue and his wife, Susie, will pass the torch to incoming Auburn president Steven Leath and his wife, Janet, in June, leaving behind a legacy as the 18th president of Auburn University. Before he was approached about the presidency in Texas, Gogue, a '69 and '71 Auburn graduate, didn't think he would ever return to the university. The move is rare in higher education, Gogue explained.
U. of South Carolina ranked among best employers
The University of South Carolina was rated prominently in a list released by Forbes that ranks America's Best Employers. USC was ranked No. 96, the only Southeastern Conference university in list of 500. Forbes worked with research firm Statista to compile the definitive list of the best employers in America. Statista surveyed 30,000 American workers to gather their opinions of their employers. Costco topped this year's ranking. Google came in second, slipping one slot since last year's ranking. Outdoor gear retailer Recreational Equipment, Inc. -- more commonly known as REI -- ranked third.
Long-suffering U. of Missouri columns to undergo preservation work this summer
The six celebrated columns on the University of Missouri campus were built in 1842, just as wagon trains were heading west on the Oregon Trail. Since then, the stones have been lashed by rain, scorched by flames and battered by sun and humidity. They have been scaled by students and painted by football fans and engineering majors. Now, MU is preparing to restore and protect this landmark on Francis Quadrangle at a cost of $550,000. Over the summer, cracks will be smoothed and sealed with grout, loose stones will be attached with tiny metal pins, and veins will be sanded to prevent additional scars. Scaffolding went up last week and work will begin Monday. According to Jeffery Brown, senior director for campus facilities at MU, the columns are structurally sound, so workers for the Joplin-based Mid-Con Construction Co. will perform only preservation work.
Trump budget seeks huge cuts to disease prevention, medical research departments
President Trump's 2018 budget request to Congress seeks massive cuts in spending on health programs, including medical research, disease prevention programs and health insurance for children of the working poor. The National Cancer Institute would be hit with a $1 billion cut compared to its 2017 budget. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute would see a $575 million cut, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would see a reduction of $838 million. The administration would cut the overall National Institutes of Health budget from $31.8 billion to $26 billion. The full budget document is scheduled to be released Tuesday morning, but either by mistake or design, the administration posted the section dealing with the Department of Health and Human Services late Monday afternoon. The document was soon taken offline but can be read here.
National Endowment for the Humanities chairman steps down as White House renews call for eliminating agency
The National Endowment for the Humanities announced Monday the resignation of Chairman William D. Adams, effective today. Adams was an Obama appointee, but the position is among those in the executive branch in which terms can go past a change in administration. His four-year term wouldn't have been up until 2018. Advocates for the humanities said they were sorry to see him go no matter the timing. His departure, though, comes at a time when federal support for the arts and humanities is subject to renewed threat from the Trump administration and some Republicans in Congress. The White House is expected to release a 2018 budget proposal today that will call for eliminating funding for the NEH as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. The overall budget of NEH is miniscule compared with large science-oriented federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. But it is typically the biggest source of outside funding for university-based researchers and educators in the humanities.
Arrest of U. of Maryland student in stabbing death of Bowie State student shakes both campuses
Richard Collins III, a student at Bowie State University and a recently commissioned U.S. Army second lieutenant, was stabbed to death on Saturday just days before his graduation. Police have described the attack on Collins, who was black, as "unprovoked." Although the suspect was white, initially there was no indication of a racial factor. The Bowie State senior was visiting the University of Maryland at College Park's campus, waiting outside for an Uber early Saturday morning when a suspect, whom witnesses described as intoxicated, approached Collins and told him to "step left, step left, if you know what's best for you." Sean Christopher Urbanski, a University of Maryland student, was later arrested nearby and charged with first-degree murder. Police and university officials later announced that the slaying may have been racially motivated, as Urbanski was a member of a Facebook group called "Alt-Reich Nation," where people shared racist memes. The group has since been shuttered.
Students must master engineering and empathy to create our future
Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky, writes in the Lexington Herald-Leader: "New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman believes that today's college graduates must do much more than compete for a job. Graduates today, he writes, 'will have to "invent" a job ...and, given the pace of change today, even reinvent, re-engineer and reimagine that job much more often than their parents if they want to advance in it.' That's just what Kentucky students are doing. At the end of April, the University of Kentucky hosted the state finals of the Lieutenant Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge. ...Education also must have the capacity to ensure these young minds are challenged -- both intellectually and ethically. Those jobs of the future will require a mastery of engineering, math and science, to be sure. But that process must also be guided and inspired by the challenges facing our common humanity."
My Family Didn't Accept Me. Ole Miss Did.
Dylan Lewis, a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi, writes in The New York Times: "It may sound surprising, but many colleges in the Deep South are welcoming environments for gay students. Until my freshman year at the University of Mississippi, I never felt free to be myself. But I thrived in college. I made gay friends, met gay professors, and with the help of an amazing university counselor, I finally became comfortable with being out. Still, supporting myself through school was a huge challenge, as it is for many L.G.B.T. students who are estranged from their families. ...While participation and acceptance made me feel whole, my college years were far from secure. I was essentially on my own and I worried constantly about money."
Battle for school dollars now rests with Supreme Court
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "Most students are out for summer, having finished their final exams. In all probability, there were no easy answers. The quest for better K-12 public schools in Mississippi continues, though. Likewise there are no easy answers. Last week, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove fervently asked justices of the state Supreme Court to order the Legislature to obey state law. Justin Matheny, assistant attorney general representing the Legislature, responded that because lawmakers write state law -- and have the power to rewrite state law -- they are not constitutionally bound to do as the law says, whether they change the law or not. Or something like that. As this point, you may be as perplexed -- as some of the justices seemed to be. Legalisms aside, there is a divide when it comes to talking about public education."

Mississippi State's Brent Rooker wins Ferriss Trophy
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker has dominated the SEC in a way that few hitters have ever done. He hasn't always made hitting look this easy. Two years ago, Rooker was an average SEC hitter who only played in about half of the Bulldogs' games. On Monday, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior first baseman won the Ferriss Trophy, which is given to the state's top college baseball player. Also Monday, he was named the SEC's Player of the year. The Germantown, Tennessee, native said his progression from part-time player to the top of the SEC didn't easily happen. "It was a lot of time spent in the cage, a lot of time spent with the bat, a lot of time spent watching film," Rooker said. "Just a lot of dedication, hard work and a lot of help from outside people like coaches and teammates."
Mississippi State slugger Brent Rooker wins Ferriss Trophy
Brent Rooker remains as determined as ever to help the Bulldogs win the SEC Tournament next week, but on Monday, he picked up some hardware of his own. The MSU slugger was named the recipient of the 2017 C Spire Ferriss Trophy as the best college player in the Magnolia State, and later became the first Bulldog to ever be named SEC Player of the Year. Rooker thanked God, his family, his coaches and teammates in his acceptance speech for the Ferriss Trophy at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. "They all make it easy to go out there and do what I've been able to do," he said. "We've had a respectful season so far and can't wait to see what we do in the post-season."
Brent Rooker's 'magical season' at Mississippi State continues with winning Ferriss Trophy
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: "[Mississippi State's Brent] Rooker Monday afternoon accepted the C Spire Ferriss Trophy. 'It means so much to win an award named after Boo Ferriss,' Rooker said after the presentation. 'He meant so much to baseball. He means so much to all of us.' ...'Brent has been a tremendous leader of our team, an outstanding worker,' State first-year coach Andy Cannizaro said. 'He's been a role model for our team. ...He's been incredible in the locker room. He leads by example." ...Monday's was the first Ferriss Trophy presentation not attended by the award's namesake Boo Ferriss, who died last November. A soldout crowd watched a video tribute to Ferriss."
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker chosen SEC Player of the Year
What Mississippi State has felt all along became official on Monday. Brent Rooker is the best there is in the Southeastern Conference. Rooker, MSU's junior slugger, was selected by the league as the SEC Player of the Year on the same day he also took home the C Spire Ferriss Trophy, which is the award given to the best college baseball player in the state of Mississippi. "I not only think he's the state's best player, I think he's the best offensive player in America this year," MSU head coach Andy Cannizaro said of Rooker. "I think his offensive numbers show that." Rooker's production also garnered himself a first-team All-SEC selection. He was joined on the All-SEC first team by teammate, shortstop Ryan Gridley. Gridley hit .326 this season and is tied for second on the team with six homers. He had the second-most RBI on the club with 38.
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker named SEC Player of the Year
The hits just kept coming for Brent Rooker on Monday. The Mississippi State first baseman was also named the SEC Player of the Year after leading the league in most offensive categories. He's the first Bulldog to receive the honor since it began in 1993. Joining Rooker on the All-SEC first team is MSU shortstop Ryan Gridley while center fielder Jake Mangum was selected to the second team and All-Defensive team.
Mississippi State still has work to do at SEC Tournament
In many ways, Mississippi State has already overachieved this season. Despite losing 11 players to pro baseball, three coaching changes and double-digit players lost to injury and attrition throughout the year, the Bulldogs ended the regular season ranked 19th nationally and finished fifth in the SEC. As good as the regular season was, it could have been even better. MSU lost its final five league games to Georgia and LSU, which cost State its second straight SEC title. Now Mississippi State (34-22) must find a way to get back on track as it takes on 12th-seeded Georgia (25-31) today at the SEC Tournament at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network. "We want to create some momentum again and continue to build our resume for the NCAA Tournament," said MSU coach Andy Cannizaro.
SEC baseball tourney starts Tuesday with teams looking to improve odds of making NCAA
The 40th Southeastern Conference tournament begins Tuesday, and the professional baseball talent evaluators rejoice. As usual, the field this season is defined almost as much by its individual talent as it is the quality of the teams --- six of which were ranked in the final Baseball America top 25. There are flame-throwing pitchers, like Florida's Alex Faedo, Missouri's Tanner Houck and Vanderbilt's Kyle Wright, all expected to be among the first 15 players taken in June's Major League Baseball draft. There are the muscle men like Mississippi State's Brent Rooker and LSU's Greg Deichmann, both of whom rank among the nation's best power hitters with 20 and 17 home runs. Last year's SEC tournament featured seven teams that would host regional tournaments, including four national seeds. Both of those were record figures. This year figures to be much of the same.
Delta State headed to College World Series
Delta State is going to the Division II World Series. The Statesmen defeated West Alabama 6-4 to capture the D-II South Region Tournament title Monday afternoon in Cleveland, and dogpiled on the pitcher's mound to celebrate. Delta State (44-11) will face Lindenwood in the first round of the eight-team tournament at 7 p.m. Saturday in Grand Prairie, Texas. The Statesmen had to score two runs in the 10th inning to hold off West Alabama in the Regional final Monday afternoon. DSU star Zach Shannon singled to lead off the 10th inning, and pinch hitter Jamell Newson and catcher Josh Russell followed with back-to-back doubles to score the winning runs.
U. of Florida wins SEC All-Sports Award
It hasn't taken Scott Stricklin long to get used to the athletic culture at the University of Florida. "It's amazing how quickly you become accustomed to it," said the Florida athletic director between innings of the UF softball team's winning performance in the NCAA softball tournament Sunday. "I've been here 6½ months and when one team has a bad day, you take it hard because you are so used to all of the success." Stricklin was speaking specifically about another SEC All-Sports Award for UF. Florida won the SEC All-Sports Award for the 27th time, sweeping the three categories for the 16th time. Baseball was one of five SEC championships won by UF during the athletic season.
Kentucky's Nick Mingione named SEC baseball Coach of the Year
Nick Mingione made quick believers out of his University of Kentucky baseball players upon taking over the Wildcats program last June. He then spent his first season convincing the Southeastern Conference it was time to buy in as well. Validation came Monday in the form of Mingione being voted the SEC's 2017 Coach of the Year by his fellow league coaches. Seven of Mingione's players also received all-conference recognition Monday, including Sean Hjelle, who was named Pitcher of the Year. Mingione, who replaced Gary Henderson after last season, led the Wildcats to a 38-18 overall record. UK finished 19-11 in the SEC, securing second place in the Eastern Division behind Florida. Mingione arrived at Kentucky after eight seasons as an assistant to John Cohen at Mississippi State.
Hogs won't be in new game day locker room in 2017
Arkansas officials confirmed Monday morning earlier reports several weeks old that the game day locker room planned for the north end zone facility will not be ready for this season. Final plans for that locker room are still in the works and won't be completed for months. The north end zone in Reynolds Razorback Stadium is being renovated to be usable to start the 2018 football season. There were rumors last week that the Hogs might be able to use a new locker room on game day. They are not true. Bret Bielema, the Arkansas head football coach, said any beliefs that the new locker room will be usable this season are wrong. "We just aren't going to be able to use anything in the north end zone this season," Bielema said. "As far as the exact amenities, we are still finalizing plans. Some things we just haven't gotten to yet. We are checking to see what all is out there. We will have everything."
New deal almost set for Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville
Jacksonville is close to clinching a five-year deal to host the Florida-Georgia football game that includes a new $2.7 million guaranteed payout to the universities. The new contract, which replaces the deal that expired after the 2015 game, includes more lucrative terms for the universities, like a yearly $250,000 payment to each school and a one-time $125,000 signing bonus. The guaranteed payment wasn't included in the previous contract, although the city paid each school $125,000 for last year's game. The added benefits are part of the city's effort to keep the annual game in Jacksonville, a long-time tradition that city officials estimate delivers an annual $30 million economic impact.
U. of Missouri postpones Memorial Stadium football sideline switch
The Missouri football team will remain on the east sideline at Memorial Stadium, with the Tiger's Lair fan group right behind the Tigers, for at least the next two years. A proposal to switch Missouri's bench to the west sideline, which would have forced the student cheering section out of its prime seats, was tabled Wednesday. "We decided our best option, knowing that in 2019 -- or whenever the south end zone project is finished -- that there are going be other seating changes, was to wait and make all the changes at one time," MU athletic department spokesperson Nick Joos said. In April, the athletic department met with student organizations to discuss the team switching sidelines. Coach Barry Odom expressed concerns about opposing coaches stealing MU's signals from their vantage point in the press box. Odom also favored a switch because the east sideline is hotter during afternoon games and the home and visiting teams have to cross paths on their way in and out of the locker rooms.
Attorney: Texas A&M receiver's transfer to East Mississippi CC due to 'bad publicity'
An attorney for former Texas A&M wide receiver Kirk Merritt said Monday that the player will transfer to East Mississippi Community College, a move that comes after being dismissed from the team following charges of indecent exposure during two different tutoring sessions. In a statement given to The Eagle, Rick Davis said he believes Merritt's athletic scholarship was revoked because of what the mother of one of the tutors said in a Houston Chronicle article. "It appears that his scholarship was withdrawn simply because of bad publicity that one of the complaining witness' mothers generated about the Texas A&M Student Disciplinary process, which was both fair and thorough," Davis said in the statement. "Kirk dearly wanted to play for Texas A&M and is deeply disappointed that his scholarship was withdrawn after he was already sanctioned by the Student Conduct Office and was already complying with the terms of the sanction."
Tennessee associate athletic director Greg Hulen leaving for Florida State
Changes in the Tennessee athletic department continued on Monday. According to sources that spoke with GoVols247 on Monday afternoon, Greg Hulen, associate athletic director and chief development officer for the Tennessee athletic department, announced during a staff meeting that he's leaving for a similar role at Florida State. Hulen is expected to become the executive vice president of Seminole Boosters at Florida State. Tennessee has not named a replacement. Tennessee has seen senior associate athletic directors Jon Gilbert and Mike Ward leave during the athletic director transition, from Dave Hart to John Currie. Senior associate athletic director Chris Fuller left for Syracuse last fall.
Drone crashes into fan at Padres-Diamondbacks game
Behold the perils of attending a sporting event in the 21st century: One moment, you're in your seat enjoying a leisurely baseball game, and the next, a battery-powered piece of plastic with a bunch of rotors on it is slamming into you out of nowhere. That was the case at Sunday's Padres-Diamondbacks game in San Diego, when a small drone -- a GoPro Karma Quadcopter, to be precise---crashed into the Petco Park stands between innings. Where the drone came from or why it invaded the game is unknown, but shouts to the guy who takes the full impact of the drone and its rotors and barely even notices it. That man has some thick skin. But while no one was hurt, the Padres apparently were none too pleased by the flyby.

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