Wednesday, June 7, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Distance learning program booms at Mississippi State
One in every three Mississippi State University graduates is an online student. Evan Hawkins, Distance Education program coordinator at MSU, shared that statistic, along with many others involving distance learning, with Starkville Rotarians Monday at Starkville Country Club. Hawkins said the national demographic for students taking classes online across the U.S. are individuals between 25 and 50 years old, with many working full-time or managing a family. More settled students may have good jobs or families but may want to finish their education, according to Hawkins. "They might come because they need a bachelor's degree for a raise or a promotion. Maybe they need one because they are looking at a new career field. I have some that aren't worried about a bachelor's degree, they are thinking about a master's but they need that bachelor's first to get there," Hawkins said.
Sandra Sistrunk ousts Lisa Wynn as other Starkville incumbents retain seats
Former Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk will return to her seat in July after she defeated incumbent Lisa Wynn by 16 votes Tuesday. Wynn's defeat was the only instance of a sitting alderman losing their position in the General Election. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Caver and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn both secured third terms in contrasting races. Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker also secured a second term, as the Democrat fended off his Republican challenger, Pete Ledlow, 210-102. Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, Ward 5 Alderman-elect Patrick Miller and Mayor-elect Lynn Spruill also won their respective seats after receiving votes in uncontested races.
Supervisors place OCH vote on November 7 ballot
Oktibbeha County voters will decide the fate of a potential OCH Regional Medical Center transaction in November. Supervisors voted 4-1 Monday to schedule the referendum alongside Nov. 7's special election for chancery clerk, with District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer opposing the matter. The referendum will strictly adhere to whether to proceed with a transaction without broaching any previously submitted offers or their specifics. Its yes-or-no question will simply ask if the board of supervisors should be "authorized to sell or lease with an option to sell" the publicly owned facility. Supervisors amended the previously issued request for proposals associated with the potential hospital transaction by moving the deadline for bids from July to Sept. 15 and certified a pro-OCH petition calling for November's vote.
OCEDA buys 5-acre parcel for industrial park substation
The Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority announced on Tuesday it had exercised its option to purchase a 5-acre parcel of land in Starkville as part of the proposed industrial park development. The 5-acre parcel will be used for a new electrical power substation that will be constructed by the 4-County Electric Power Association. Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said they expect to be in front of the city and county during July to outline steps for securing the remaining property, along with discussing timing for the commencement of infrastructure construction for the new park. The proposed site is positioned on roughly 380 acres of property on the northwest corner of the city, with its westernmost point at the intersection of the Highway 82 and Highway 25 interchange. The property runs east back to the intersection of Highway 82 and Highway 389 intersection.
MBI investigates officer-involved shooting in Starkville
Preliminary information from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation reveals new details in the officer-involved shooting in Starkville. Warren Strain of MBI says that the incident started as a shoplifting at Sprint Mart located at Highway 12 and Montgomery Street. A pursuit ensued and ended in the area of the 600 Block of Wedgewood. Strain said the suspect allegedly attempted to run over the officers and one discharged his weapon. WTVA spoke to residents in the area where the armed robbery chase came to an end. "I ran to the window and I saw police pretty much surrounding my house and the houses next door," said Dana Bohna. "A few minutes later, a police car was in one of the neighbor's backyards with lights shining through all the backyards. Like they were looking for someone."
Chokwe Antar Lumumba new leader of capital city
He enjoyed his win in the general election for Jackson mayor in the same place he celebrated a landslide victory in the primary a month earlier. An energized Chokwe Antar Lumumba addressed a room of hundreds of supporters at the King Edward Hotel after defeating eight candidates in the democratic primary in May. But it was Tuesday's celebration that solidified his position as Jackson's next mayor. "I'm really, really, really happy," Lumumba said just before 9 p.m. Tuesday. "At the same time, I don't know it's entirely sunk in yet." Tuesday's general election, a ticket including a popular, well-known democrat and five virtually faceless opponents, was not expected to drive the same kind of excitement, or voters, as the primary.
Percy Bland wins second term as Meridian mayor
Mayor Percy Bland successfully fended off two challengers in his re-election campaign and will serve the residents of Meridian for another four years. Bland, a Democrat, won with 64 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election, beating Independent candidate Dustin Markham, former Ward 2 councilman, and Republican William Compton. At a celebration in the Northeast Conference Center, on Highway 11 and 80 near the Hilton Garden Inn, supporters rushed to embrace Bland following the win, taking photos and repeating the "One Team, One Dream, One Meridian" slogan for the Democratic candidates. Throughout his campaign, Bland promised to attract more businesses to Meridian, through projects such as the Phase II of the Bonita Lakes Crossroads. He also promised to nurture a "pro-business" environment using his background as a small-business owner.
Toby Barker defeats incumbent Johnny DuPree for Hattiesburg mayor
As Toby Barker supporters celebrated over the strains of Boston's "More Than a Feeling" Tuesday night at The Venue in downtown Hattiesburg, the Hub City's mayor-elect was looking forward to the city's potential over the next four years. "It's an incredibly humbling feeling, for a town like Hattiesburg to put their trust in me to help lead the next four years," said Barker, who defeated incumbent Mayor Johnny DuPree 5,681 votes to 3,797 in Tuesday's general election. "We know that we have challenges, and I just know that the talent and goodwill of the people will overcome those. I'm excited about what the next four years and beyond will bring." Barker, who currently serves as the Republican representative for House District 102 in central Hattiesburg, will serve as an independent in his mayoral term, which begins July 1.
Voters chose new faces to lead cities across the Coast, including 2 millennial mayors
There is a lot of change coming to city governments across the Coast. Ocean Springs, Bay St. Louis, Moss Point and Pascagoula all elected new mayors Tuesday and several city councils got makeovers as well. In the biggest surprise of the night, Republican Shea Dobson defeated three-term Mayor Connie Moran in Ocean Springs by almost 400 votes. Dobson, a relatively unknown young man a few months ago, received 1,951 votes to 1,574 for Moran in unofficial returns. Moran won her home ward, Ward 2, by just 58 votes.
Mayor George Flaggs wins re-election, says this term is his last
Mayor George Flaggs Jr. won each of the city's 11 precincts on the way to winning a second, and he said final, term as Vicksburg mayor. "I'm going to try and continue what we've done and continue on the path to the future," he said. "I'm going to give the best I've got for the last four years of my career. I don't see me running again." Flaggs received 3,051 votes, or 78.8 percent, of the total 3,871 votes cast in Tuesday's election for mayor. Daryl Hollingsworth finished second with 699, or 18 percent of the vote, while Willie Robinson had 114, or 2.94 percent of the total vote. "I think it's a sad day for Vicksburg and I wish Mayor Flaggs all the success," Hollingsworth said. "The people weren't listening to what I had to say," Robinson said. "They really don't understand. They're kind of in a conundrum of popularity and who's got the most money; not what is best for Vicksburg."
Lawsuit dismissed listing Hinds supervisors as plaintiff against MDOT
A federal lawsuit listing the Hinds County Board of Supervisors and three African-American residents as plaintiffs and accusing state transportation officials of spending federal highway and bridge money discriminatory has been voluntarily dismissed. A motion was filed Monday in federal court dismissing the lawsuit on the same day the current Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on a resolution clarifying that the board doesn't want to be a party to the lawsuit. Board members and Board Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen said they didn't know a lawsuit had been filed and the current board gave no authority for the filing of the lawsuit. Jackson attorney Barry Howard, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the county and the three residents, said Tuesday that he had no comment on board members saying that no authority was given to file a lawsuit. However, he directed The Clarion-Ledger to the Board of Supervisors minutes from 2012 when he was hired.
President Trump to Nominate Christopher Wray for FBI Director
President Donald Trump plans to nominate former Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray to be the next FBI director, he announced in a Wednesday morning tweet. Trump dubbed Wray, who was assistant AG in charge of the Justice Department's Criminal Division from 2003 to 2005 under the George W. Bush administration, "a man of impeccable credentials." The president, who has been critical of the FBI and Justice Department, chose a career prosecutor for the nation's top cop post rather than other candidates, including former Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Wray is a two-time Yale University graduate, picking up his law degree from there in 1992. The public service portion of his career began in 1997 when he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.
USM Veterans Center Stresses Importance of Free Hepatitis C Testing
The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Veterans, Service Members, and Families is helping spread the word about a statewide initiative that will provide free Hepatitis C testing to enrolled veterans born between 1945-1965. The Mississippi Community Veterans Engagement Board (MS-CVEB), in coordination with the G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson and the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi, has launched the program that will include testing at various sites across Mississippi and the Gulf South region on June 13. "Hepatitis C is a horrific disease affecting up to 17 percent of our veterans, and most don't even know they have it," said Maj. Gen. (U.S. Army-ret.) Jeff Hammond, who serves as the USM center's director and also as MS-CVEB chairman.
Pizza-writer becomes a big hit after choosing Auburn over Yale
It was her love for pizza that got her noticed by Yale, but her love for the South that brought her to Auburn. Carolina Williams, a Tennessee native who graduated from Ravenwood High School, was accepted to Yale University in March after writing an attention-grabbing essay, but she has chosen to attend Auburn University in the fall instead. When asked on her Yale application to write an essay about something she loves to do, it was simple for Williams to come up with an answer: order pizza. Although it was a great honor to be accepted into Yale's class of '21, Williams is confident about her decision to attend Auburn in the fall. "I love the South and the spirit that Auburn has, and I immediately felt at home when I came here, so it was just personally a better fit for me," said Williams.
Watered-down campus 'free speech' bill passes in Louisiana
Legislation seeking to protect controversial speakers' appearances at Louisiana colleges and calling on campuses to penalize students who disrupt them won final passage Tuesday from state lawmakers, but only after its punishment provisions were watered down. Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris, chairman of the House Republican Delegation, said his bill comes in response to university decisions to shut down appearances from speakers amid demonstrations and threats of violence. He's cited the decision by officials at the University of California, Berkeley, to cancel a speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter. "The major thing is it now makes the university stress the importance of freedom of expression and free speech in orientation," Harris said after the vote.
U. of Kentucky plans to raise tuition 4 percent, give 2.5 percent raise
The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a 4 percent tuition increase for Kentucky students Tuesday and a 6.5 jump for those from out of state. The 2017-2018 tuition hike -- which was limited by state officials earlier this year -- will push in-state tuition to an average of $11,942 a year. Out-of-state students, who make up 35 percent of the student body, will see an average undergraduate rate of about $28,000 a year. In December, the board approved a roughly 3.5 percent jump in UK housing rates, while dining plan prices will rise between 3.2 percent and 4.8 percent, depending on the plan. Mandatory fees, which are managed by student organizations, will go from $1,486 a year to $1,538. The board held a special meeting to discuss UK's $3.7 billion budget on Tuesday, which includes a proposed 2.5 percent merit raise for employees in the fiscal year that starts July 1. The board approved the tuition increase Tuesday, but will gather again next Friday to vote on the full budget. Read more here:
Ag journalism alumni rallying to save U. of Missouri program
Alumni of the agriculture journalism program at the University of Missouri are rallying to save it from the budget axe. A letter-writing campaign organized on Facebook is seeking to save the degree program, initiated in the 1920s. It is slated for elimination by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources as part of $3.9 million in cuts that will also see the undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics merged with the Agricultural Business Management degree and graduate programs in the Division of Applied Social Sciences folded into single masters and doctoral programs with emphasis areas. "The reason I care so much about it is that it has given me my entire career," said Marilyn Cummins of Columbia, associate editor of Red Barn Media Group. Cummins is a graduate of the program and a former faculty member.
Lawmakers Grill Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Budget Proposal
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took fire from both sides of the aisle on Tuesday during a tense U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing about the Trump administration's 2018 budget request. Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, kicked off the hearing with an indictment of the proposed budget, saying it was "difficult" to defend. "The kinds of cuts proposed in this budget will not occur," he said. Mr. Blunt also questioned the recent decision to choose a single loan servicer to manage the billions of dollars in student loans the department issues. In her opening remarks, Ms. DeVos said the budget request "reduces the complexity of funding for college while prioritizing efforts to help make a college education accessible for low-income students through programs like year-round Pell."
Republican senators raise doubts about White House budget proposal
When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos makes an appearance before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, one would expect a hostile reception from Democrats who have opposed her since she was nominated for the job. Less expected is open skepticism from Republicans. That's exactly what DeVos got Tuesday, however, at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on the proposed White House budget for 2018, which includes deep cuts to education programs as well as other nondefense spending. "This is a difficult budget request to defend," said Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, the subcommittee's chairman, in opening the hearing. The critical reception of the budget from Blunt and several fellow Republicans underlined how extreme many of the proposed spending cuts would be.
President Trump keeps Francis Collins on as head of National Institutes of Health
President Trump announced Tuesday that he will keep Francis S. Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health. Collins was first nominated for the position in 2009 by President Obama. Shortly after he took office, Trump announced that Collins would stay on in an interim role, and many scientists have wondered if Collins would be offered the position or would accept it on a permanent basis in the new administration. Trump surprised many this year by proposing cuts of nearly 20 percent in the budget of the NIH, which normally has support from Democrats and Republicans alike. In the world of science, Collins is a giant, having led the Human Genome Project, which produced a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book. The tensions over the NIH and Trump's science policies can be seen in the reactions to Collins's tweet saying he was honored to be asked to stay on.
U. of Memphis board approves tuition, salary increases
Tuition and housing costs will increase at the University of Memphis this fall to help pay for salary increases for faculty and staff. President David Rudd will also receive a raise, but the increase will be funded entirely by private dollars. In its second full day of meetings as a Board of Trustees, the board approved the increases along with its nearly $500 million 2017-18 budget, and also committed to establishing a parental leave policy. Tuition will increase 2.6 percent, well under the 4 percent permitted by the state. Mandatory fees are not increasing, so the overall increase in what a student has to pay is about 2.1 percent. Housing rates will also increase 5 percent. Tenured and tenured-track faculty will receive a combination of across-the-board and merit raises, with all other full-time faculty and staff receiving the across-the-board increases.
Study Shows Downside to Career and Technical Education
Quick: What's one education topic that Betsy DeVos, Randi Weingarten, Donald Trump, and Al Franken all support? It's actually career and technical education -- something they've all said America's schools need in order to better prepare graduates for the economy. President Trump even praised Germany's approach to vocational education recently. Trump's budget actually cuts CTE funding, but, at least in theory, there's wide support across the ideological spectrum for helping more students learn career-specific skills in high school. Yet new international research points to a significant downside of such programs: Students may benefit early in their careers, but are harmed later in life as the economy changes and they lack the general skills necessary to adapt.
For women on engineering track, a potent resource
For every 100 female students who begin studies in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, only three continue on to a professional position in the field, estimates one study. What can be done to improve such dismal figures? It's not that hard, suggest some experts. Just give the female students mentors -- preferably women mentors. A recent UMass Amherst pilot program tested this idea by giving 150 female freshman engineering students mentors who were advanced engineering students. Some students were given female mentors, others were given male mentors, and some were given no mentors. The astonishing results: 100 percent of the students with female mentors continued on into their sophomore year, compared with 82 percent of those with male mentors, and 89 percent of those with no mentor.
Issue of race bubbles up in diverse Mississippi House
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "Long after the Mississippi Legislature finished its special session work Monday night, the House remained in session -- talking about race. Or to be more precise, African American members -- 11 of them to be precise -- made a steady procession to the well to take points of personal privilege to condemn the Facebook posts from earlier this month where Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, said local officials spearheading the removal of Civil War monuments in New Orleans 'should be lynched. Let it be known I will do all in my power to prevent this form happening in our state.' White members of the Mississippi House sat silent. It should be pointed out that most remained in the chamber until the remarks were concluded about 10:30 Monday night even though there were no more votes for them to take."
Our View: Never-say-die Dogs defy odds
The Dispatch editorializes: "In sports, few things are impossible. That said, some thing are so unlikely as to be dismissed as fantasy. Friday evening, the Mississippi State baseball team fell to South Alabama in the opening round of the Hattiesburg NCAA Regional. Oddsmakers calculated the odds of the Bulldogs emerging from that position to win the regional at 6.8 percent, which almost seemed generous at the time. To achieve that, the Bulldogs would have to win four games in two days, two against host Southern Miss, which had already secured its best record in school history. Yet in the early morning hours [Tuesday], fantasy became fact. ... For its efforts, State now faces an LSU team that is seeded fourth overall in the NCAA on the Tigers' home field. Last month, LSU swept State in a three-game series in Starkville. LSU has all of the advantages that can be measured. In other words, the Bulldogs have 'em right where they want them."

Bulldogs facing dream matchup in Baton Rouge
A potential Mississippi State-LSU Super Regional has been lurking in the background ever since the NCAA Tournament field was announced on Memorial Day. That dream scenario for many college baseball fans came true in the early morning hours of Tuesday as the Bulldogs finished off four wins in two days to claim the Hattiesburg Regional championship. Now MSU will meet its SEC West rival in a best-of-three series in Baton Rouge that begins Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. "I'd be lying if I said we didn't talk about it and think about it," said MSU coach Andy Cannizaro, who was the Tigers' hitting coach until last November. "LSU is a special place like everybody knows with the national championships, the crowds and the stadium. It's an electric place and they've earned that right with their titles and their program. It's going to be an incredible atmosphere."
LSU, Mississippi State writing new chapter in rivalry with second ever postseason matchup
For a baseball series that began more than a century ago, it's difficult to determine exactly how many times LSU and Mississippi State have met on the diamond. According to Mississippi State's media guide, the teams first met in 1907, and they've played almost 400 times. The Bulldogs lead the overall series, but archives aren't conclusive on how large that lead is. Only once have these two programs met in the NCAA postseason. That was in the second round of 1998 College World Series. LSU beat the Bulldogs 10-8, but both teams were eliminated by eventual national champion USC. This weekend at Alex Box Stadium, the teams do indeed meet again in the postseason. At 8 p.m. Saturday, when the first game of the Baton Rouge super regional gets underway, LSU and Mississippi State begin to write a new chapter in a rivalry rich with drama and intrigue. "I think it's one of the greatest rivalries in all of college baseball," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said, "and it adds significance to it this weekend because the winner gets to go play in Omaha for a national championship."
LSU not focusing on the past heading into Super Regional against Mississippi State
For LSU to get to Omaha for the College World Series, it has to go through a familiar foe. In fact, it's a foe that the Tigers saw just three weeks ago in Mississippi State. LSU went into Starkville in the final weekend of the regular season and swept the Bulldogs to win the SEC West and claim a share of the outright SEC championship. Now LSU must beat Mississippi State for a fourth and fifth time in order to achieve its goal of making it to Omaha. Just don't tell LSU coach Paul Mainieri they need to beat Mississippi State five times in one season. "I told our players, we don't need to beat them five times," Mainieri said on Tuesday afternoon. "We only have to beat them twice. What we've already done is ancient history. The significance of those three games was apparent at that time. We were fortunate enough to be successful and because that we get a couple of trophies for our trophy case. But we don't have to beat them five times. We only have to beat them twice. That's the frame of mine where we're at."
LSU first baseman Nick Coomes' status remains questionable for super regional against Mississippi State
LSU first baseman Nick Coomes' availability for this weekend's super regional is still questionable, coach Paul Mainieri indicated. Coomes suffered a thumb sprain as he slid back into first base during LSU's regional-opening win against Texas Southern last Friday. He did not play in LSU's final two games of the regional and was replaced by freshman Jake Slaughter. Mainieri said Coomes, batting .296 with 24 RBIs and two home runs, would not practice Tuesday and would be re-evaluated Wednesday. Due to Coomes' injury, freshman center fielder Zach Watson, who homered twice against Texas Southern, filled in as the No. 5 hitter in the final two games of the regional. Watson homered two more times against the Lions.
Dusty Smith takes over Mississippi State golf program primed to compete
Dusty Smith said Tuesday he is "truly honored" to be named the Mississippi State's eighth men's golf coach. By most accounts, the feeling is mutual. Mississippi State AD John Cohen certainly checked all his boxes by handing Smith the reigns of the Mississippi State golf program after a national search. Smith has served as an assistant at Vanderbilt since 2011, and helped coach the Commodores to a fourth-consecutive NCAA Championship appearance this year. He came into that program with head coach Scott Limbaugh, who has turned Vandy into a national powerhouse. He's coached 11 medalists and four All-SEC selections. Smith, who hails from The Woodlands, Texas and graduate from Lamar, said Tuesday at his introductory press conference there's no reason he can't do the same in Starkville.
Recruiting will be backbone for Dusty Smith's golf program at Mississippi State
Minutes after being introduced as Mississippi State's new men's golf coach, Dusty Smith laid out his top priorities: Recruit. Recruit. Recruit. "I kind of have three little steps," Smith said. "You have recruiting, player development, and just creating a competitive culture. Recruiting is the main thing. You want to bring players in that will be the perfect fit for this university. You want to recruit on a national level. You want to expose your brand and have people want to come to Mississippi State." Smith, who was an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, replaces Clay Homan, who announced his retirement last month after 14 seasons at MSU. Homan's final squad finished last at the Southeastern Conference Championship. On the other end of that spectrum was Smith, who worked with head coach Scott Limbaugh to lead Vanderbilt to its first SEC championship in golf last month.
Ole Miss Disputes NCAA Lack of Institutional Control Charge
The University of Mississippi disputes the NCAA's charges of lack of institutional control and failure to monitor by head coach Hugh Freeze, along with allegations of a $10,000 cash payment to a recruit. The Ole Miss football program released its response Tuesday to a second NCAA Notice of Allegations in less than two years. The first notice alleged 13 violations while the second added eight more, bringing the total to 21. Fifteen of them are classified by the NCAA as Level I, which the governing body deems most serious. Some of the charges date back to the tenure of previous coach Houston Nutt, who was fired in 2011, but most of the case involves conduct that happened under Freeze. The sprawling case involves alleged academic, booster, and recruiting misconduct.
Chad Holbrook out as South Carolina baseball coach
South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook resigned on Tuesday after five seasons as the head coach of the Gamecocks. Holbrook met with Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner earlier this week to make his case to return to USC, but after the meetings Holbrook decided to resign. Tanner will address the future of the baseball program in a news conference at Founders Park on Wednesday at a time to be announced. USC missed the postseason this year for the second time in three seasons after making it 15 consecutive years from 2000-2014. Holbrook was an assistant coach under Ray Tanner for USC's back-to-back national titles in 2010 and 2011 and was also an assistant when the Gamecocks returned to the national championship series in 2012. But he was unable to enjoy that success as a head coach.
SEC basketball goes from 'beaten down' to feeling like 'it's our turn now'
SEC men's basketball coaches greeted Frank Martin with an ovation when he entered their room at the league's spring meetings last week in Destin, Fla. he South Carolina coach guided the Gamecocks to their first ever Final Four two months earlier, toppling Duke and Baylor along the way, to top a momentous postseason for the league. Even John Calipari, who has taken Kentucky to four Final Fours, didn't get that type of reception when he won the national title in 2012. "No, no, no," Calipari said. "They didn't even mention we won. ... It was great to recognize all the guys. Frank has done it where they built from the bottom and just kept going." It was only a year ago that the SEC was trying to find ways to turn around its basketball fortune after getting only three teams in the NCAA tournament in three of the previous four seasons.
Dr. Jerry Punch, laid off by ESPN, ready for next chapter
The messages poured into Dr. Jerry Punch's phone after the announcement was made. Because the Knoxville resident spent 32 years covering auto racing and college football, a lot of people who had met Punch throughout his tenure made sure to reach out after they learned in April he would be affected by the downsizing at ESPN. "When the announcement came out, I was disappointed because I feel like I can contribute to a lot of sports down the road, and I may," Punch said Tuesday. "But one of the nice side effects is that you get to know who your friends are because of the phone calls. It was so nice to have those people take the time to pick up the phone or send a text or say to come to one of our games or this or that, it really meant a lot." Punch said he has been contacted by other networks, but added that he looking forward to having some time off and "letting the dust settle." His son, Logan, is a walk-on long snapper at Tennessee, and Punch plans on attending a few games this season.

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