Wednesday, July 12, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Boll weevil group honors Kenneth Hood
Kenneth Hood has been honored by the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation for his "more than 25 years of service to the planning, implementation, and accomplishment of boll weevil eradication in Mississippi and other cotton belt states." "Don Waller, who was president of Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, and later David Waide, were extremely supportive, as was the Delta Council; the National Cotton Council, which helped us get the program started off right; and Mississippi State University Extension Service -- we couldn't have done it without them. Extension writer Linda Breazeale wrote extensively about the program and was so helpful in keeping farmers informed," Hood said. "We also owe a debt of gratitude to our congressional leaders, particularly Sen. Thad Cochran for the money he was able to allocate to the program for Mississippi and the entire cotton belt. We met with him during our original trip to Washington, and Dr. Mark Keenum, now president of Mississippi State University, who helped us not only with weevil eradication but in making sure funding was included in the farm bill."
 
Zippy Duvall: 'Stories that touch hearts, and change minds'
Zippy Duvall is a travelin' man. Before he was elected the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation in January 2016, he'd visited nearly three dozen states campaigning for the post, and promised that if elected he'd put boots on the ground in all 50 states. Duvall is making good on that promise. He recently spent the better part of a week in Mississippi, visiting county Farm Bureau chapters, row crop/livestock/poultry/forestry operations, a cotton gin, research facilities at Stoneville, and attending the big Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation summer commodity conference at Mississippi State University. Farm families, he believes, are the bedrock of America.
 
PSA Group, Morocco Launch OpenLab for Research on Sustainable Mobility for Africa
PSA Group has signed a partnership agreement with leading Moroccan universities and engineering and business schools to establish an OpenLab dedicated to boosting sustainable mobility for Africa. The agreement was signed by the leading French automotive manufacturer and five Moroccan universities, two American universities with campuses in Morocco, an engineering school of Ecoles Centrales based in Morocco, and a technological center at the International University of Rabat, PSA Group said in a statement. The OpenLab partners include Mississippi State University.
 
Heath Barret stepping down from GSDP role this month
Heath Barret, who led the Greater Starkville Development Partnership on an interim basis as it searched for a new chief executive officer, will step down from his role as its director of membership development July 26. Barret is concluding an almost four-year stint with the Partnership to pursue other opportunities. "It has been an honor and a privilege to work at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership and with the board of directors, Committee of 100, the Ambassadors and, most importantly, the staff of the GSDP," he said in a release. Barret came to the Partnership after working for at Mississippi State for seven years. He was named interim CEO last year after Jennifer Gregory resigned her post.
 
Road manager hire splits Oktibbeha County supervisors
Fred Hal Baggett is set to become Oktibbeha County's next road manager, but his Monday appointment drew protest from two supervisors who said stronger candidates had applied. Supervisors voted 3-2, with District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery and District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller opposing, to contact the former road manager for Lowndes (2000-01) and Leflore (1996-2000) counties with a job offer as soon as possible. The board will meet again Monday to work out compensation details. Former Road Manager Victor Collins, who retired this spring, earned $76,500 in his role. After District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer recommended Baggett for the job, Miller and Montgomery both questioned why he should be labeled the board's preferred candidate.
 
Rotary Club gets update on new Meridian museum
Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience Development Director Erica Parnell was the guest speaker for the weekly Rotary Club meeting at the Starkville Country Club on Monday. Parnell discussed the new Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience (THE MAX) museum opening next April in Meridian, which will be located in downtown across the street from Weidmann's Restaurant. The original location for THE MAX was supposed to be in Jackson, however with Meridian being so close to the interstate and having the highest overnight stays than any other city in Mississippi, Meridian became the museum's location. "We're expecting to bring in about 200,000 people off the interstate each year," Parnell said.
 
Officials Comb Delta Fields for Clues After Military Plane Crash
With debris scattered for miles across the flat countryside of the Mississippi Delta, federal and local officials combed soybean fields for clues in a military plane crash that killed 15 Marines and a Navy sailor. Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and were headed for pre-deployment training in Yuma, Arizona, the Marine Corps said Tuesday. Witnesses said they heard low, rumbling explosions when the plane was still high in the sky Monday, saw the aircraft spiraling toward the flat, green landscape and spotted an apparently empty parachute floating toward the earth. With the investigation underway, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant warned people not to remove debris from the area and said that anyone taking something could be prosecuted.
 
Leflore County: The site of the fatal Marine plane crash
Leflore County is a sparsely populated, flat vista of rural farmland dotted with small towns. Monday evening, it also became the epicenter of national attention surrounding the fiery crash of a KC-130T military plane. Located in the northwestern part of the state with a population of approximately 31,000, Leflore County is known for its cotton and catfish farming. "It's just typical Mississippi Delta farmland composed of fish ponds, soybean fields, corn and cotton," said Andy Braswell, an employee with Mississippi State University Extension Service who serves as county coordinator in Leflore County. Braswell said he is responsible for agriculture and natural resources as well as 4-H and livestock in the area. "I ride all of those country roads all the times, checking crops and looking at fields," he said. "It's just flat farmland, that's about all it is."
 
Rally opens union push at Nissan Motor plant in Mississippi
Pro-union workers at Nissan Motor Co.'s Mississippi plant cast themselves as underdogs Tuesday, but encouraged workers to believe supporters of the United Auto Workers could triumph in a vote on union representation. "We will win," said Travis Parks, a Nissan employee and union supporter who lives in Carthage, Mississippi. Those supporters filed petitions Monday with the National Labor Relations Board seeking the election, after years of seeking support at the 6,400-worker plant. The petition seeks an election on July 31 and Aug. 1, but the National Labor Relations Board will ultimately set a date if it certifies the petition. Nissan managers say they believe a union would be bad for the company, but also say workers are free to choose. Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article160716004.html#storylink=cpy
 
Sen. Roger Wicker discusses T-45 oxygen issue with Navy nominee
Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker met Tuesday with President Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Navy. Wicker, who chairs the Senate Seapower Subcommittee, said he received a favorable response from Richard Spencer regarding his proposal to help find a solution to the hypoxia-related episodes occurring in T-45 training jets. Physiological episodes occur when pilots experience a loss of oxygen, breathe contaminated oxygen, or undergo cockpit decompression. The T-45 jets are flown at Meridian Naval Air Station and two other bases. There has been an increase in physiological episodes reported by pilots. Wicker authored a provision in this year's defense authorization bill to help military officials identify the cause of these episodes, which have been experienced by Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps pilots. Spencer responded by saying that he was excited "that those tools and authority would be available to [them]."
 
Stronger U.S. economy to warrant more rate hikes, Janet Yellen says
The U.S. economy is gathering strength as consumer spending, business investment and global demand for American products rebound from a weak spell at the beginning of the year, likely warranting further gradual increases in the Federal Reserve's benchmark interest rate, Fed Chair Janet L. Yellen plans to tell Congress Wednesday morning. In a measured statement to be delivered at the beginning of two days of testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives, Yellen described an economy that appears generally strong, with continued job gains and low unemployment, but is still dogged by stubbornly low inflation.
 
Senators to Grill FBI Pick Christopher Wray on Independence, Terrorism
Christopher Wray won't be able to escape questions about President Donald Trump at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to be the next FBI director, but he'll draw on his reputation and experience to make his case. Wray's nomination comes at a tumultuous time for the bureau and the presidency. Trump abruptly fired FBI director James B. Comey in May amid the bureau's probe into connections between the president's campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 election. Democrats will have plenty of questions. Wray, 50, will look to highlight his professionalism and independence, which former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson lauded this month in a letter to the Judiciary Committee.
 
China sends troops to open first overseas military base in Djibouti
Ships carrying personnel for China's first overseas military base, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, have set sail to begin setting up the facility, as China's rapidly modernizing military extends its global reach. Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worry in India that it would become another of China's "string of pearls" of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It will be China's first overseas naval base, though Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts U.S., Japanese and French bases.
 
Mississippi University For Women Holds Orientation
The Mississippi University for Women hosts it's sixth orientation for the summer. For many families, the biggest question and concern is surrounding financial aid. "It's everything I thought it was going to be. When we came here on a recruiting visit, it's everything and more. So, I'm very happy and I know mom will be very happy because she will be safe here at the W," said parent of an incoming freshmen Michael Poe. Safety is a top concern but financial aid runs a close second. Kendal Robertson is one of the people tasked with introducing the students to the university. She says with financial aide being a number one concern for many families they want both the student and parent to have a full understanding moving forward. The last orientation will take place August 2.
 
Southern Miss Professor Co-Authors Paper Focusing on Alcohol Cues and Racial Discrimination
A research paper regarding the effects of alcohol-related cues on racial discrimination co-authored by Dr. Elena Stepanova, assistant professor of psychology at The University of Southern Mississippi, has been accepted for publication by the European Journal of Social Psychology. Stepanova points out that the paper, titled "Effects of Exposure to Alcohol-related Cues on Racial Attitudes and Discrimination, was inspired by previous research showing that individuals presented with alcohol-related cues -- such as alcohol-related words or images -- produces behaviors that are associated with actual alcohol consumption.
 
'Valley is in motion,' says acting MVSU president Jerryl Briggs
Mississippi Valley State University has seen six presidents come and go over the past 10 years, leaving alumni to fear for the sustainability of the university. And in August, the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees may begin another search for a new Valley president. Dr. Jerryl Briggs, current acting president of the university, wants to allay those concerns. "The IHL board members realize the importance of stability and continuing to have the university move into a positive trajectory," he said in an interview with Mississippi Today. Briggs will serve as acting president until August, when the IHL will ask Briggs whether he will accept the title of interim president or will he submit himself as a candidate for university president. An interim president cannot interview for the permanent appointment.
 
Institute for Marine Mammal Studies workers surprised by birth of baby stingray
Workers at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport were surprised by the birth of a new baby stingray Tuesday. "It was a pleasant surprise today," said IMMS Senior Marine Educator Whitney Stone. "Came in this morning getting ready to do maintenance on our aquarium and they noticed something peculiar in one of our overflow filters. And when they went to take a closer look they realized that it was a brand new baby sting ray." Stone said the Cownose stingray is the first one ever born at IMMS. The little, female pup is already becoming a favorite for visitors. Stone said the baby will have a diet of shrimp and fish just like the rest of the Atlantic and Cownose stingrays there. Both species are native to the Gulf of Mexico.
 
Senators want U. of South Carolina to explain its tuition discounts for out-of-state students
A state Senate panel will begin holding hearings next month into the tuition breaks that S.C. public colleges use to recruit out-of-state students. Senators will hear first from University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides, whose school is under fire for giving out-of-state students $515 million in discounts over the past decade. The Senate Education Committee's decision to look into the discounts follows a months-long political fracas -- among some lawmakers, a college oversight board and USC -- over whether the practice helps or hurts S.C. residents. "It seems like we're getting more and more out-of-state students taking slots in our in-state universities and schools," said state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, who requested the hearings. "That concerns me because I have constituents who are complaining that they have not been able to get into the university."
 
U. of Tennessee expert: Rare solar eclipse not to be missed in East Tennessee
The Knoxville area will be a prime spot for viewing this summer's total solar eclipse, although residents will have to leave the city limits and travel 30 to 40 miles south or southwest for the best view of the rare natural phenomenon, according to an expert at the University of Tennessee. "If you're in downtown Knoxville, you absolutely will miss out," said Mark Littmann, Hill Chair of Excellence in Science Writing in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee, who has written several books on the topic. The total eclipse is a phenomenon that happens about every 1.5 years somewhere on Earth, yet the last time one was visible in the continental United States was 38 years ago, Littmann said. On Aug. 21 the total eclipse will be visible in the United States along a path that is 2,500 miles long and about 70 miles wide, from central Oregon through Tennessee and on to South Carolina.
 
Autopsy: Texas A&M fraternity member died of alcohol, drugs
Autopsy results show a Texas A&M University student whose body was found last year at his fraternity house died of an accidental drug and alcohol overdose. The Brazos County Sheriff's Office says Sigma Phi Epsilon member Matthew Hayes of Beaumont was discovered unresponsive Dec. 6 in his bedroom. The Travis County Medical Examiner's Office on Monday said the 20-year-old sophomore died of a lethal mixture of alcohol and drugs, including hydrocodone. The death was ruled accidental.
 
New York Times article on U. of Missouri setbacks prompts campus rebuttal
After an article appeared in The New York Times Monday about the setbacks at the University of Missouri following national attention over protests in 2015, three top administrators issued a statement Tuesday to counter the way the university was portrayed. Although acknowledging that the reporter did interview university leaders, "key aspects of our story were omitted," they said. They drafted the statement "to set the record straight." UM System president Mun Choi, Interim Chancellor Garnett Stokes and Chancellor-Designate Alexander Cartwright signed the statement, which was sent to the MU community. The administrators listed recent accomplishments, awards and achievements by faculty, staff and students, as well as success in fundraising and progress in diversity initiatives.
 
Study shows students more likely to graduate from wealthier institutions
Students are more likely to graduate from colleges that are more expensive and have larger budgets, a new study out of Oregon State University shows. Researchers examined the demographic and graduation data of more than 400 four-year colleges and universities from both the 2007-08 and 2014-15 academic years, relying on the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The focus was on institutions that generally accepted a large majority of their applicants -- 80 percent -- known as broadly accessible institutions. These colleges tend to enroll a higher number of Latino students in particular, some of whom come from impoverished and inadequate educational backgrounds. Thus, it is unsurprising that their graduation rates would already be lower, the study states. The average six-year graduation rate at these institutions hovers around 40 percent, compared to 56 percent at more selective colleges.


SPORTS
 
No finish line for Dan Mullen at Mississippi State
Dan Mullen was feeling a bit nostalgic as he took the stage for the ninth time at SEC Media Days on Tuesday. Mullen's first trip as Mississippi State head coach came in 2009, and he is now the second-longest tenured coach in the league behind Alabama's Nick Saban. "The iPad had not even been released on my first SEC Media Days," Mullen said. Technology is not the only thing that has changed during Mullen's tenure in Starkville. He has helped transform the Bulldogs from a perennial doormat program into a team that has been to seven consecutive bowl games. Mullen even guided MSU to the pinnacle of college football for a month during the 2014 season when the Bulldogs ascended to No. 1 for the first time in program history. But just because Mullen has taken State to uncharted territory before does not mean he is going to rest on past laurels. "My life has no finish line," Mullen said.
 
Ninth year: Dan Mullen likes progress Bulldogs have made during tenure
Quite a bit of water has passed under the bridge since the first time Dan Mullen stepped to the podium as Mississippi State's head football coach at Southeastern Conference Media Days back in 2009. George W. Bush was just a few months removed from wrapping up his tenure as president. Hardly anyone had ever heard of Twitter. It was undoubtedly a different time and a different world. "I looked it up," Mullen said on Tuesday from the stage in Hoover, Ala. at this year's SEC Media Days. "The iPad had not even been released on my first SEC Media Days, so now everybody in the United States has one. There are more iPads than there are people, so it has been a long time." The years since that first trip to Hoover have been kind to Mullen.
 
Mississippi State players on lopsided Egg Bowl win: 'Don't think we'll come down off that high'
Nearly eight months have passed since Mississippi State pulled off its largest margin of victory in the Egg Bowl in 97 years, but the Bulldogs' players are content with letting the rivalry win linger. MSU ended Ole Miss' two-game winning streak in the series with a convincing 55-20 win at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last November that Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze called embarrassing. The emotions were on the opposite end of the spectrum for MSU, which posted its largest margin of victory against its in-state rival since a 33-0 win in 1919 and scored its most points in the game since 1915. Those emotions haven't faded for the Bulldogs. "Everybody was locked in that week. We wanted to bring that trophy back to Starkville," MSU offensive tackle Martinas Rankin said.
 
What is Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen's secret to developing quarterbacks?
Dan Mullen is something of a quarterback whisperer. At least that's the reputation of Mississippi State's ninth-year coach. It's hard to argue. From Alex Smith to Tim Tebow to Dak Prescott and now Nick Fitzgerald, Mullen has gotten the most out of his signal callers at every stop throughout his coaching career. Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback, and Tebow, who played briefly in the NFL before trying his hand at professional baseball, were both quarterbacks under Mullen when he was the offensive coordinator at Utah and Florida, respectively, while Prescott was a two-year starter at MSU before becoming the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year last season with the Dallas Cowboys. So what does Mullen look for when recruiting quarterbacks? It's a wide-ranging answer.
 
Mississippi State's Martinas Rankin can cement himself as a first round pick
Aside from the smiles he flashed with nearly every answer he offered, Martinas Rankin operated in business-like fashion during his main session with reporters Tuesday at SEC media days. He wore a black suit. He was diplomatic yet brief with responses. The NFL mock drafts that have him pegged as a first-rounder? That's far away from now, he said. Does he prefer to play left tackle or center? Wherever the coaches need him to play, he said. (As it turns out, Dan Mullen said Rankin will move back to left tackle after playing center in the spring, and Elgton Jenkins, who was out in the spring with an injury, will be MSU's center this season.) Rankin wasn't at the event to entertain; he represented Mississippi State because he is one of the Bulldogs' most indispensable players and fit in among the top returnees in the SEC. Five years ago, though, not many would have predicted that scene.
 
Mississippi State Notebook: Martinas Rankin moving back to tackle
Martinas Rankin spent the entire spring learning how to snap and other subtle nuances of playing center. But Rankin, who started the final 10 games at left tackle for Mississippi State last season, will likely be returning to the edge when fall camp arrives later this month. "As the season gets on, we do expect him to move back out to left tackle with Elgton Jenkins moving back into center after Elgton missed this spring due to injury," said MSU coach Dan Mullen. Rankin, who was the nation's No. 1 juco offensive lineman in 2015, is open to contributing at any position he is asked to play. "Wherever they put me at I'll be happy," Rankin said.
 
Donald Gray looks to make most of senior season at Mississippi State
As he does with every soon-to-be senior, Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen sat down with wide receiver Donald Gray in his office. These meetings always come in January and they always carry the same question. "I say to them, 'What do you see in your football career? Because right now, it has less than 12 months,'" Mullen said. "If you'd like it to extend beyond that 12-month period, you're going to have to do something special. You're going to have to really be special to take your game to the next level." Immediately thereafter, Gray embarked on an offseason unlike any other he's had at MSU. With that under his belt, Gray was heralded as a player of importance at Southeastern Conference Media Days Tuesday. "Donald, in that meeting, took that very seriously," Mullen said. "Very rarely does a day go by that I don't look out the window and see him catching on the JUGS (machine), working on running routes, doing different things. He's one of the first guys in the building and one of the last to leave every single day, working to make sure he's covered every stone to make himself the best player he can be for the coming season."
 
Mississippi State's Donald Gray takes on an unfamiliar role, and thrives
As one of 12 seniors on Mississippi State's roster coming into the 2017 season, wide receiver Donald Gray admitted taking on a more vocal role did not come naturally to him. But he's working on it. "I was kind of the one that wanted to be in the back and let my work speak for itself, but I had to embrace the uncomfortable role, and there's no better feeling of being comfortable in uncomfortable situations," Gray said. His work last year included averaging 17.3 yards per reception and contributing five touchdowns for the season. He was second on the team in receptions, behind Fred Ross, a senior who had 30 more receptions in the No. 1 receiving spot and has also graduated to the NFL. Gray comes into this year as the most seasoned wide receiver among a very young unit and knows he has a lot to live up to.
 
First SEC foe for Mississippi State? It's LSU, and Bulldogs confident they can keep competitive streak going
Mississippi State's first Southeastern Conference test this season will come against LSU, which should not have surprised anyone when the schedule was released in April. It's the third time in four years the Bulldogs will have opened their conference football schedule against the Tigers. Sticking with the recent history theme, the Bulldogs are also banking on it being a tight ballgame. "It seems to come down to the last play of the game the last several years, right down to the wire," coach Dan Mullen said. It may not have been much of a rivalry before, but is something starting to brew between these programs? Mullen seems to think so. "Over the last couple of years, it seems that it's been that type of game, right down to the final whistle," he said. "And we've come up on the short end the last two years, but you know, I think our guys have the confidence that we can go make the final play this year."
 
Dan Mullen wants coaches to have walk-up music at SEC Media Days and you should too
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey gives every one of the conference's 14 football coaches an introduction before they take the main stage at SEC Media Days. For Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, he spoke about his coaching credentials and the time the two compared U2 concert notes in Boston earlier this summer. Then Mullen took the stage to complete silence. It's no surprise, and that has nothing to do with Mullen. SEC Media Days, behind all the fanfare, is just a series of press conferences for reporters. And there's no cheering in the press box, or in this case, an ice-cold ballroom inside The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover. So before launching into his soliloquy about the state of Bulldog football, Mullen offered this solution to the day's doldrums. "I think next year we want to add some walk-up music like the baseball games so as they introduce us," he said. This is a silly idea. SEC Media Days is already a circus, and this would only enhance it. It's also genius, and it should absolutely happen.
 
Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan, Victoria Vivians invited to Team USA tryout
Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan led Mississippi State to the national championship game last year and now have the opportunity to represent their country. Vivians and McCowan were selected to attend the United States U23 National Team training camp July 31-Aug. 4 in Colorado Springs. If selected, the duo would play for the U.S. in the U23 Four Nations Tournament in Tokyo, Japan on Aug. 12-15. Vivians, a rising senior guard, led the Bulldogs in scoring for the third straight season with 16.2 points per game. McCowan averaged 8.7 points and 7.1 rebounds last year as a sophomore center and won gold with USA Basketball on the 18U team at the 2014 FIBA Americas Championship.
 
On the move? SEC considering relocating bustling media days, commissioner says
The unofficial kickoff to college football season might be on the move. The Southeastern Conference is strongly evaluating a relocation of SEC media days from its longtime spot here in Alabama, conference officials said Tuesday. In an interview with The Advocate, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey declined to reveal potential new locations or the timing of a possible move, but he confirmed the league is considering moving around the annual extravaganza. A smiling Sankey called Nashville, Tennessee; Dallas; and Atlanta "a pretty good list" of potential hosts. Hoover remains a possibility, the third-year commissioner said. "We've got a great tradition here in Hoover. As our footprint has expanded, it's appropriate to look at options," he said. "I said back in April that's on my mind. I don't have a prediction of when or where, but I think at some point mobility can be a healthy thing for this particular endeavor."
 
SEC Media Days Outtakes: New stadium for Alabama's opener promises to be bigger and brighter
First things first. The folks associated with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta want you to know the stadium will open as scheduled for the University of Alabama's Sept. 2 game against Florida State. Secondly, they want you to know that it's a state-of-the-art stadium. "The building speaks for itself," Atlanta Falcons CEO and president Rich McKay said. "The architecture, I think, speaks for itself. ...what you're going to see when you come to the stadium, whether it's for one of our preseason games, whether it's for the kickoff game with Alabama-Florida State, Georgia Tech-Tennessee. Whatever it may be. I hope the first time you're in it, yeah, you're wowed by the architecture but more wowed by the fan experience and what we're trying to provide."
 
SEC under siege? Don't look now, but the college football power has challengers
When LSU's Ed Orgeron matter-of-factly declared the Southeastern Conference as "the best conference in the United States," he was mostly preaching to the choir in the league's backyard. But the SEC's once-undisputed status as college football's top league is facing strong challenges from the ACC and Big Ten, despite Alabama's best efforts. The Crimson Tide certainly remains formidable as ever, if not invincible, at the top. Beyond that, there's plenty of uncertainty -- and in some cases mediocrity -- in a league that won seven straight national titles from 2006-12. "If you're trying to hit a moving target on this date and say, 'Is the SEC the best league right now?' the answer is no," SEC Network analyst and talk-show host Paul Finebaum said Tuesday at media days. "I think it's probably the ACC. It's marginal and you can come back and say, 'Yeah, but ...' Results matter, and the SEC has lost two times in the last four years to the ACC."
 
NCAA no longer will allow leaping over linemen to block kicks
One of the greatest plays of the 2016 college football season came when Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham timed the snap and leaped over the line of scrimmage to block a field goal during a game against Auburn. Such a play would draw a penalty flag this season. The NCAA changed the rule regarding leaping over the line of scrimmage to try to block a field goal or extra point. Steve Shaw, the Southeastern Conference's coordinator of officials, discussed the rule change Tuesday during SEC media days. Previously, it was only a penalty if the defensive player made contact with an opposing player while leaping or landing. Cunningham cleanly cleared the Auburn linemen during his maneuver. Now it won't matter.
 
Casino sports gambling ready to go in Mississippi if U.S. Supreme Court gives OK
Mississippi syndicated sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: "The Mississippi Gaming Commission is ready to regulate casino sports betting -- and a new state law allows casinos here to play -- should the U.S. Supreme Court clear the way next spring. The nation's highest court last month agreed to hear arguments on whether sports betting should be legalized at New Jersey casinos and racetracks. At issue is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which effectively outlawed sports betting nationwide except for Nevada. Mississippi is one of five states that joined New Jersey's effort to have the case heard by the Supreme Court. ...What few Mississippians may know is that the Legislature in its last session paved the way for sports betting in Mississippi casinos with House Bill 967. The bill legalized sports fantasy betting in the state but also included language that would legalize sports betting in Mississippi casinos if the federal ban is lifted."



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