Friday, July 14, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Mississippi State entomologist: beetle threatens Florida avocado industry
A beetle smaller than a grain of rice could have a huge impact on the agriculture industry in the southeast. The female redbay ambrosia could be deadly for avocado trees and other laurel species plants if left unchecked. According to researchers, the insect has killed nearly 300 million redbay trees and could devastate the Florida avocado industry. The insect is not native to North America and was first discovered in Georgia in 2002. It has now spread across the region impacting Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. "It's a species from Asia that was likely introduced through the port of Savannah, Georgia," John Riggins, an associate professor of forest entomology at Mississippi State University told Fox News.
 
Wanted: Teachers willing to work 'in the middle of nowhere'
As states scramble to fill vacancies before school starts in the fall, those tasked with bringing teachers and pupils together in rural areas are relying on a variety of efforts. From town hall meetings to persuading town natives to return, administrators and state education leaders are looking for better ways to woo teachers to places without the amenities of urban destinations. Their task is made more difficult by the fact that the United States is currently experiencing an unprecedented teacher shortage. Working in favor of small towns is the fact that studies have shown that teachers are more likely to return to their hometown. If you are from this area and you go to college to become a teacher, are you going to go back home?" asks Kenneth Anthony, an education professor at Mississippi State University. "The people who leave these communities are the most capable of turning these communities around."
 
Mississippi's deteriorating roads and bridges: Everyone pays
They are discouraging, and in some cases scary, the numbers that Scott Walker quotes: Almost 4,000 state and local bridges in Mississippi deficient in some fashion; over 24,000 lane miles of roadways now in need of repairs. And those numbers grow daily as the strapped-for-funds Mississippi Department of Transportation falls farther behind in maintenance and repairs. "We have vast needs with our surface transportation infrastructure, and if we don't begin to address the problem quickly, things are only going to get worse," Walker, who is interim president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, said at the recent Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Summer Commodity Conference at Mississippi State University.
 
Mississippi to face challenges with tax cuts
Mississippi will face a $415 million tax cut to be phased in over the next decade, limiting the state's budget for the upcoming years. At the local level, State Rep. Rob Roberson, a Starkville Republican, said the cuts represent a wake up call for many politicians in the state. He said many don't understand that with a tax cut, funds are far more difficult to allocate. "It's hard on the front sometimes to see where this is going to hurt or help, and how it's going to affect things in the future," Roberson said. Roberson said one way for the state to soften the blow of these tax cuts is to "squeeze out" where there should have been less money spent in certain places. Julius Nukpezah, assistant professor of public policy and administration at Mississippi State University said based on the state's current political climate, there needs to be a focus on how to make Mississippi more attractive. This would include new policies geared toward making Mississippi more competitive among other southern states.
 
Judge rules Johnny Moore's mayoral election challenge can proceed
Starkville mayoral candidate Johnny Moore's challenge of May's Democratic Primary runoff will remain in legal limbo after attorneys for Mayor Lynn Spruill promised to appeal Special Judge Barry W. Ford's Thursday decision denying her motion to dismiss the case. Ford's ruling allows Moore's challenge to proceed, but a timetable for its resolution is not clear because of the pending appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The entire issue -- the appeal and overall election challenge -- could easily be held up in litigation for months. Spruill's counsel, Jim Mozingo, previously asked the judge to dismiss the entire case, arguing the court has a limited jurisdiction and can only review the Starkville Democratic Election Committee's hearing and decision to affirm Spruill's mayoral election victory.
 
Mississippi governor orders emergency to protect military plane crash site
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says he's declaring an emergency in the area affected by the KC-130 crash that killed 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman this week. Bryant, speaking to reporters Thursday, said the step will allow the state to continue to provide security at the crash site "as long as they need us" as crews work to catalog and remove debris. The Republican governor also says he's ordering flags lowered to half-staff statewide Friday to honor the people who died in the plane crash Monday. He says he wants the state to build a monument to memorialize the crash.
 
Lawmakers: Didn't think law would legalize sports betting
Sponsors of a new state fantasy sports betting law that could allow gambling on real sporting events say they never considered that possibility when pushing for the law's adoption. "We did not see (House Bill 967) in the same light as sports betting," said Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, who defended the bill in the Senate and was the main author on the identical Senate version. "We knew there was a federal law that prohibited sports betting but allowed fantasy sports gaming," Tindell said. "We weren't concerned with sports betting then because we knew federal law would trump anything we could pass." But the U.S. Supreme Court's recent announcement that it will hear arguments next term on the federal ban has raised the prospect that a court decision against the ban would open the door for such gambling at Mississippi-based casinos. State gaming officials say language in state law barring "sports betting" was removed by the fantasy sports betting law.
 
Supreme Court pondering venue in state's opioid lawsuit
The Mississippi Supreme Court will determine the next step in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers filed by Attorney General Jim Hood on behalf of the state. The multiple drug makers named in the lawsuit are asking the Supreme Court to move the trial from Hinds County where it was filed by Hood to neighboring Rankin County where two of the out-of-state drug makers' registered agents live. The drug companies contend that under Mississippi law, the change of venue to the county where the registered agents reside is proper. But Hood filed the lawsuit in Hinds County -- as the seat of state government -- and maintains that is the proper venue. Hinds County Chancellor Denise Owens sided with the state -- a decision the drug makers appealed to the Supreme Court.
 
Mississippi inmates' families file class action lawsuit against Chris Epps, others
A federal class action lawsuit was filed Thursday against former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps and others accused in a bribery scandal, WJTV reported. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are inmates and their families. The defendants are Epps, Global Tel Link Corporation (GTL), and businessman Sam Waggoner. GTL provides inmate calling services. The complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering conspiracy through what the suit calls the "Mississippi Prison Phone Scam." Epps is accused of running one of the largest and longest criminal conspiracies in state government history.
 
Mississippi auditor slams Gov. Terry McAuliffe's former company, demands payment
An electric car company founded by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) failed to deliver on its economic promises and should repay nearly $6.4 million to the state of Mississippi, that state's auditor said in a report issued Thursday. The GreenTech manufacturing facility, announced with great fanfare in 2009 after McAuliffe fell short in an earlier bid to be Virginia's governor, never lived up to the promises it made as a condition of receiving public funding, said Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering. Pickering, a Republican, said last week that the company should repay money to the state and issued the report Thursday to back that up. His demand was first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In Thursday's report, Pickering said the company missed a number of targets.
 
Russia probe, Trump Jr.'s emails dominate D.C., not so much in Mississippi
Donald Trump Jr.'s emails and the Russian election investigation are dominating D.C. politics and news wall-to-wall. But how is this playing outside the Beltway, particularly in a deep-red state like Mississippi? It doesn't appear to be top of mind for most folks, nor does it appear to be dampening support for President Trump, who took more than 58 percent of the vote in Mississippi in last year's presidential election. "Being 66, I'm old enough to remember being terrified of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Iron Curtain, Sputnik ... Khrushchev saying, 'We will bury you,'" said Marty Wiseman, longtime Mississippi politico and political science professor. "It's just otherworldly to me. To have a White House that is trying to normalize subterranean dealings with Russia just seems surreal. But given what I hear from the coffee-drinking crowd in rural Mississippi, I'm an outlier," Wiseman said.
 
Investigators look for links between Trump, Russia cyber operations
Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign's digital operation -- overseen by Jared Kushner -- helped guide Russia's sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump's campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states -- areas where Trump's digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries. Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.
 
USM exhibit explores Mississippi's 200-year history
A letter from the Civil War, the first gay novel ever authored, a poster left on a tree in front of Vernon Dahmer's house -- these are just some of the items on exhibit in "Mississippi Bicentennial: Celebrating the State's 200th Anniversary" at the McCain Library on the University of Southern Mississippi campus. The items are culled from the library's vast special collections and archives. "The hardest part of doing these exhibits is narrowing them down because we have so much to choose from," said Jennifer Brannock, curator of rare books and Mississippiana. "The kinds of subjects we touch on range from the controversial to the celebratory." The exhibit devotes attention to Mississippi's involvement in the Civil War, local occurrences during the civil rights movement, Mississippi authors, history of Southern Miss, development of state tourism and the state's political history.
 
New Jackson State president to introduce himself Friday morning
Jackson State University's new president officially introducing himself. Dr. William Bynum, Jr. is scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the school's welcome center. The choice for the school's new president was announced last month. Bynum will lay out three foundational pillars of the university: students, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence.
 
Meridian Community College bridge program helps students cross over to college
One key lesson Lisa Rhodes hopes new college students can learn is that there's no harm in seeking out some academic help. "You come in that first year and think, 'I'm not where a lot of other people are, and I wish I was,'" said Rhodes, chairwoman of the Division of Language and Literature at Meridian Community College. Then, she said, students in that situation can seek out a remedy. Rhodes is getting ready to help students make the transition from high school to college over the next two weeks when she and Robert Fowler teach lessons, through the college's Summer Bridge Program, designed to help students hone their English skills. The classes, which begin on Monday, are free --- and they are funded through a gift from David Quave, who graduated in 1963 from what was then Meridian Junior College. Quave, who made a gift of $1 million to the college, designated a portion of the gift to help students struggling with English, Rhodes explained.
 
Mississippi Department of Education proposes new high school diploma options
The 2018-19 class of freshmen in Mississippi public schools could be the first to be offered new diploma options, officials announced Thursday. The State Board of Education approved the first step in revamping diploma options available to high school graduates during its monthly board meeting held here. If approved, high school seniors will graduate with a new traditional diploma with new course requirements. The Mississippi Department of Education also will offer diploma endorsements in academic, distinguished academic and career and technical categories. Students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to earn a traditional diploma will have the option of an alternate diploma, officials said. The state currently has five diploma options for students. Those include career pathway, district option, early exit exam, traditional pathway and the Mississippi Occupation Diploma option, only available for students with special needs.
 
Auburn University camp gives kids a glimpse into veterinary science
"It feels so weird!" That's the reaction 13-year-old Kristyn Delamar had after she stuck her hand in the mouth of a horse named Lucky and rubbed his teeth. "You can feel the tongue moving around while you're touching the teeth," she said. "They're sharp and rough. I thought they would be smoother." Delamar, of Bakersfield, Calif., was one of 40 middle school students from all across the United States who participated in Auburn University's veterinarian camp this week. Thursday's demonstration of how to perform a dental exam on a horse was one of the camp's final learning experiences for the week. From Tuesday through today, students in grades six through eight studied animals under the direction of Auburn University vet students.
 
UGA Trial Gardens hosts annual open house Saturday
The University of Georgia Trial Gardens are full of color almost any time of year, but they're going to be especially bright Saturday. The gardens' annual public open house is on that day from 9 a.m. to noon and features more than 1,000 varieties of ornamental plants, most of them flowers, as well as tours led by garden director John Ruter, a professor in the UGA Department of Horticulture. "The petunias are doing phenomenally well this year," said garden manager Brandon Coker. This year's open house will feature vendors such as Maisie Loo, selling herb teas from the UGArden. Copies of Ruter's latest book, "Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast," will also be on sale.
 
Court dismisses free-speech lawsuit against U. of South Carolina president others
A federal judge has dismissed a former University of South Carolina student's free-speech lawsuit against university president Harris Pastides and three other administrators. The suit was filed in February 2016 by Ross Abbott, a libertarian activist who then was a USC senior. Abbott alleged USC officials had infringed on his First Amendment rights by asking him to explain his decision to show posters that questioned freedom-of-speech limits at public universities. The posters included the words "wet back," images of a swastika displayed at another campus, and a reference to the 2015 suspension of a USC student over a photo showing a racial slur written in a campus study room. The posters were part a Nov. 23, 2015, on-campus "free speech event" held by Abbott and two campus libertarian organizations.
 
U. of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz Named Presiding Co-Chair of NW Arkansas Council
University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz is the new presiding co-chair for the nonprofit Northwest Arkansas Council. Steinmetz joined the council's executive committee after becoming chancellor in 2016. "I'm looking forward to my term as presiding co-chair of the Northwest Arkansas Council," Steinmetz said in a news release. "Higher education has a role in the vibrancy and vitality of a region. In addition to providing education, research and outreach, colleges and universities also contribute to the cultural amenities, intellectual capital, talent and workforce development that are great for business and great for life. My plan is to encourage ways in which the community can collaborate with higher education for mutual benefit."
 
U. of Tennessee students research mosquitoes, spread of La Crosse encephalitis virus in state
Becky Trout Fryxell was in her first year working at the University of Tennessee in 2012 when a 6-year-old boy died after contracting La Crosse encephalitis, a rare-mosquito-borne illness, in Union County. "The (Centers for Disease Control) called and said, 'We need to start doing some things,'" said Fryxell, assistant professor of medical and veterinary entomology. "I talked with everybody in the lab and said, 'We need to really take some time to work on this virus.'" Since then, Fryxell and a rotating team of graduate and undergraduate students have been studying the spread of La Crosse in East Tennessee, one of the most highly concentrated areas where the virus can be found in the U.S. This summer, they've also had the help of a special team of research students who are trying to predict the spread of the virus using large-scale mathematical models and hoping to make it easier to identify the threat of infection.
 
Aggie donation to support Texas A&M College of Liberal Arts, Huffines Institute
Texas A&M former student Mike Hilliard, class of '73, and his wife, Debbie, are hoping to make an impact on the lives of future students at the university through a multi-million dollar gift set to support the College of Liberal Arts and the Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance. The $5 million estate donation will see $3 million go to the College of Liberal Arts to support entrepreneurship programs and $2 million toward supporting the College of Education and Human Development's Huffines Institute's ability to grow and expand into the future. The Debbie and Mike Hilliard '73 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Endowment, gifted to the College of Liberal Arts, will specifically be focused on providing scholarships and faculty support for the establishment of a minor and certificate program in innovation and entrepreneurship.
 
U. of Missouri sets record for cash donations
The University of Missouri set a record for cash receipts from donors in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and boosted the total of its fundraising campaign to more than $900 million. Donors made $151.9 million in new cash and pledges for the Columbia campus, off about 11 percent from the record total for fiscal 2016, in large part because the previous year's tally included two large gifts totaling $39 million. The total includes the record $50.4 million in cash and pledges raised by Intercollegiate Athletics, which also received the two largest pledges of the year, $10 million and $8 million respectively, for the project to expand seating in Memorial Stadium. There are large donations with verbal commitments that could not be counted because the paperwork is not complete, Vice Chancellor for Advancement Tom Hiles said. "That would have set a record in both categories, but we have to respect donors' timing, and we are on their timeline," he said.
 
Speakers explore latest developments in public-private partnerships
Public-private partnership models are continuing to proliferate as cash-strapped colleges and universities seek to replace or update aging and outdated infrastructure amid tight finances. That proliferation is on display in many of the large development projects institutions announce, like the ambitious billion-dollar-plus campus expansion plan the University of California, Merced, unveiled last year that uses a public-private partnership to build and operate new facilities. And it was evident at the Society for College and University Planning's annual conference in Washington this week, where several sessions focused on public-private partnerships, which are often called P3s. Speakers pushed back against the idea that P3s are solely a way for colleges and universities to build when they have no debt capacity and little public financing available. Projects need to be viable on their own, and institution leaders should not expect P3s to be a source of facilities with no long-term financial impacts, speakers said.
 
After Meeting With Betsy DeVos, Title IX Activists Say They Still Have Many Questions
Advocates for campus sexual-assault victims have been concerned about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her approach to enforcing Title IX, the gender-equity law, since the moment her nomination was announced last November. They've wondered what might become of their six-year campaign to pressure the federal government to hold colleges accountable for preventing sexual violence. They've fretted that Ms. DeVos won't preserve the Obama administration's "Dear Colleague" letter, a 2011 document that spelled out for colleges their obligation to respond promptly and equitably to reports of rape. They hoped to get answers to some of those questions on Thursday, when they sat down with Ms. DeVos for the first time.
 
After full day of meetings on Title IX, Betsy DeVos says improvements needed
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos didn't announce plans to rescind guidance from the Obama administration Thursday after a full day of closed-door meetings about Title IX policy. But she hinted that changes are coming. In a 15-minute meeting with reporters, DeVos said there are substantive legal questions to be addressed regarding evidentiary standards for findings of sexual assault or harassment on campus, due process, and public input on policy. "There are some things that are working. There are many things that are not working well," she said in the Q&A session. "We need to get this right." DeVos met with reporters Thursday after back-to-back-to-back meetings with victims' advocacy groups, organizations concerned with the rights of the accused, and campus representatives. The involvement of "men's rights" organizations in that second of the three meetings led to serious backlash days before the Title IX summit even began. And it fueled skepticism among advocates for survivors of sexual assault that the Department of Education under DeVos won't be committed to enforcing Title IX protections.
 
On Public Distrust, Colleges Could Learn From Journalism's Mistakes
Higher education faces a growing shortage of trust among Republicans, according to a recent Pew Research Center study that found 58 percent of them believe colleges have a negative effect on the country. But if colleges are just now feeling some heat from a lack of public confidence, the journalism industry has long been engulfed in flames. In 1956 the American National Election Study found that 66 percent of Americans viewed newspapers positively. This week's Pew study found those numbers flipped: 63 percent of people polled -- regardless of political preference -- view the news media negatively. Fifty-five percent of Pew respondents said higher education has a positive effect on the country, but the proportion of those who disagree is growing. Clues to rebuilding public trust may be found in the successes and failures of the news industry's attempts to do the same thing.
 
Cell Towers At Schools: Godsend Or God-Awful?
School districts --- hard up for cash --- are turning to an unlikely source of revenue: cell towers. The multistory metal giants are cropping up on school grounds in Chicago, Milpitas, Calif., Collier County, Fla. and many other places across the country. The big reason: money. As education budgets dwindle, districts are forming partnerships with telecom companies to allow use of their land in exchange for some of the profits. Last year, for example, cell towers on seven school sites generated $112,139 in revenue for the schools in Prince George's County, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. "The places where service is needed the most are places where people live as well as where people work," explains Len Forkas, founder of Milestone Communications, which partners with telecom companies and school districts, like Prince George's, to build towers and share revenue. "There are very few locations in residential communities where the properties are large enough." One place where there is enough space: high schools.


SPORTS
 
Former Bulldog Ally McDonald solid at U.S. Women's Open
Fulton's Ally McDonald has put herself in position to make some noise in the third women's golf major of the season. The 24-year-old former Mississippi State standout shot a solid 1-under-par 71 Thursday at the 72nd annual U.S. Women's Open Championship at Trump National Golf Club. She finished the day five shots out of first place behind early first-round leader Shanshan Feng of China, who fired a 6-under par 66. For McDonald, an LPGA Tour rookie who has five straight top-50 tournament finishes, it was her first under-par round in three U.S. Open appearances. "It was OK today," she said. "I didn't really feel like I gave myself a whole lot of great opportunities for birdie, and I didn't really convert very many par saves I had." McDonald, who is paired with amateur Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii (80) and Stephanie Meadow of Northern Ireland (77) in the first two rounds, will tee off Friday afternoon at 1:35 p.m.
 
SEC Will Roll Out Impressive Group of Young Quarterbacks
Though the SEC always has multiple first-round NFL draft picks, there's been a drought at the quarterback position. The last SEC quarterback taken in the first round was Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in 2014 -- and his brief stint in the NFL was disappointing. The one recent success from the SEC is Dak Prescott, but he was a major surprise for the Dallas Cowboys after being drafted in the fourth round out of Mississippi State. It remains to be seen if anyone from the current group -- which includes Bentley, Alabama's Jalen Hurts, Georgia's Jacob Eason and Mississippi's Shea Patterson and Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald -- can turn into the next Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford or Eli Manning. But the early returns are encouraging, especially as it relates to the upcoming season. Fitzgerald was one of the biggest surprises in the SEC last season, winning the starting job during fall camp before throwing for 2,423 yards and running for 1,375 yards.
 
Freeze at Media Days: Media frozen out on talk of NCAA investigation
SEC media who may have wanted to dive headfirst into the drama of Ole Miss football were forced to wade in the shallow end. Rebels coach Hugh Freeze addressed the NCAA investigation in his opening statement Thursday before delivering the final coach's address at SEC Media Days. "I will not be answering questions that are directly related to our case, but you are sure welcome to read our response," Freeze said. The opening statement lasted more than 16 minutes and got under way with comments on the importance of handling adversity. Afterward, Freeze fielded nine questions, the first dealing with the lawsuit filed Wednesday by former coach Houston Nutt in which Freeze and vice chancellor for athletics Ross Bjork were accused of leading a campaign of misinformation that implied Nutt's role in NCAA wrongdoing was larger than he says it was.
 
Off-field issues dominate Ole Miss' SEC Media Days appearance
Surrounded by local media in a third-floor room at the Wynfrey Hotel, Hugh Freeze longed for a day he could come to SEC Media Days with football as his primary focus. "This will be my sixth media day," Freeze said. "If my memory is right, it will be the fifth time we're still talking about something other than our team." So this is becoming old hat for Freeze and his program. Come to media days and talk about something not related to football. Freeze and players Shea Patterson, Javon Patterson and Breeland Speaks did a good job of avoiding making any headline-worthy statements, but the university itself can't escape being in them.
 
Hugh Freeze says timing of Houston Nutt's Ole Miss lawsuit 'ironic'
Hugh Freeze was putting off the inevitable. For more than 15 minutes, the Ole Miss coach made opening statements during his time at the podium during the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, on Thursday. He talked about anything and everything except the one thing people wanted to know about: Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt's civil lawsuit against the Rebels for defamation of character. Finally, at the end of his remarks he said, "I want to talk about something other than all of the drama that's been going on, and I really want to get on the field so these kids can dive into their craft of becoming a better football players and student-athletes." On Thursday, Freeze said, "It seems a bit ironic that the timing was what it was, but it is what it is." When Freeze wasn't going on and on about things other than the lawsuit, he was being asked about, well, the lawsuit.
 
Ole Miss 'drama' follows Hugh Freeze to SEC Media Days
On a day that the SEC had some company on the college football preseason stage with the ACC kicking off their own summer event in Charlotte with defending national champion Clemson and Florida State, the Ole Miss soap opera came to the Wynfrey Hotel in suburban Birmingham. Coach Hugh Freeze hit the podium Thursday at SEC Media Days with buzz in the air about a fresh civil lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt in federal court in Mississippi that made news Wednesday. It accused Freeze, athletic director Ross Bjork and other athletic officials of a smear campaign to damage his reputation during the continuing NCAA investigation that began in 2012. Freeze read from a prepared statement at the start of his time. "I want to talk about something other than all of the drama that's been going on," he said before opening the floor to questions.
 
Ole Miss coach quizzed more on off-field issues
It was hardly the way the SEC wanted to finish up a week of chest-pounding and optimism. The coach of the one football program that is dealing with a bowl ban and an ongoing NCAA investigation wrapped it up with a hangdog expression and a lot of no comments. Hugh Freeze went from an early filibuster to a plea for sanity to late acknowledgement that there is a reason he's not asked football questions anymore at events such as this. "We obviously have created it in and around our program, you know, the length of it, we can sit here and debate all of that," Freeze said. This much we know -- there will be no bowl for Mississippi at the end of the year for the second straight season. That's not what these guys signed up for. "It's devastating," said offensive lineman Javon Patterson. "But we still are in the SEC and we gotta go play football in a great conference."
 
NCAA Questions Abound for Hugh Freeze, Even After Filibuster
Hugh Freeze clearly wanted to talk about football, so he did. Freeze delivered a 16-minute opening statement about his Mississippi team while pointing out he couldn't talk specifics about a long-running NCAA investigation. Predictably all but two of the nine questions he fielded from the podium after that dealt in some fashion with the off-the-field issues facing his program. That came as no surprise, of course. Freeze was the last of the 14 SEC coaches speaking at media days. South Carolina's Will Muschamp and Auburn's Gus Malzahn also had their turns before reporters Thursday morning, though the questions from reporters were decidedly different. Freeze said he has had the "unwavering" support of the Ole Miss administration.
 
What's next for former LSU coach Les Miles? His daughter Smacker Miles gives an update ... sort of
Les Miles may have not officially been at this week's Southeastern Conference media days sessions, but he certainly remains a hot topic in the college football world. His daughter, Smacker Miles, a former swimmer at the University of Texas at Austin who's now pursuing a career in journalism, was in attendance and gave an update, of sorts, on what the future holds for the former LSU football coach during an interview with TIDE 102.9's Aaron Suttles during his "The Suttles Approach" radio show Thursday. Suttles asked Smacker about how her transition to a professional career and how Les feels about her being in the media now when she dropped this bit of information. "I'm really trying to convince him to do media now," she said. "I would really love to work with him, but I think he still really wants to coach."
 
Turnkey will be paid $88K for Tennessee AD search
The University of Tennessee will pay search firm Turnkey Sports and Entertainment a total of $88,231 for conducting a search for the university's new athletic director. A final invoice obtained by USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee on Thursday after a public records request lists a $25,000 cost for the athletic director search plus a total of $13,231 in reimbursable expenses. The university has also paid two earlier invoices for $25,000 each, according to UT Knoxville Director of Media and Internal Relations Karen Simsen. The $13,231 in reimbursable expenses on the latest invoice includes: $2,646 in lodging; $6,817 in airfare; $896 in rail fare; $1,008 in taxis and tolls; and $1,483 in meals and entertainment. The university has paid the final $25,000 installment but is waiting for a detailed breakdown of the reimbursable expenses before paying the remainder of the invoice, Simsen said.
 
ACC happy about its status as a football power at its first media day
In his opening remarks on the first of two ACC football media days, Commissioner John Swofford detailed several notable achievements from member schools last year. First was Clemson winning the national championship. Next came Louisville's Lamar Jackson claiming the Heisman Trophy. "If that doesn't tell you something about where ACC football is today, I'll give you my glasses because we've made some progress," Swofford said Thursday morning. Coaches and players were far more emphatic about the ACC as a football power and how it has evolved from a conference whose national profile had been tied almost exclusively to basketball for decades.
 
State Games of Mississippi drew more athletes than ever
For the first time in its 26-year history, the State Games of Mississippi broke the 6,000 mark for athlete participation, plus had a record number of sports for athlete competition. "We have surpassed two goals for the State Games," said Krilecia Gianakos, director of marketing and development for State Games of Mississippi. "We had more than 6,000 participants this year thanks to a record number of 40 sports offerings. And we hit these numbers despite a year of heavy rain in June, so we couldn't be more pleased." Forty is four more than 2016, when State Games hosted 36 events. The sports that were added were pickleball, which took place on the Gulf Coast, and youth basketball, youth baseball and youth fast-pitch softball, which was hosted in Neshoba County.



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