Monday, March 17, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Mill project ground-breaking set for Thursday
Local, state and university representatives will break ground for the Mill at Mississippi State University development project 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cooley Building. Officials who confirmed the event, including Mississippi State University Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw, Oktibbeha County's chief Golden Triangle Development LINK representative Joey Deason and Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, heralded the event as the most important step for the long-awaited development. "This is absolutely a monumental step for the project. It's been a long time coming," Shaw said.
Starkville Restaurant Week begins today
Greater Starkville Development Partnership officials are optimistic an influx of in- and out-of-town patrons will visit 33 participating venues, thereby driving up local 2 percent food and beverage tax returns, this week during the second annual Starkville Restaurant Week. Starting today, participants will have a chance per entree to decide which local entity -- Homeward Bound Project of Mississippi, Starkville Pregnancy Care Center and Mississippi State University's T.K. Martin Center -- will receive a $5,000 charity donation. T.K. Martin Center staff members work to "remove limitations through the application of assistive technology, allowing individuals to participate in educational, vocational and leisure activities to the fullest degree they choose," its website states.
3Qs: Rick Snyder, MSU Extension horticulturist
Spring is gardeners' season of anticipation. Daily Journal reporter Errol Castens visited with Mississippi State University Extension Horticulturist Dr. Rick Snyder about priorities for the area's vegetable gardeners.
Mississippi State's EcoCAR 2 Team Returns from Competition
From gas mileage to speed, engineering students at Mississippi State University have spent the last week learning from experts on how to improve their EcoCar for their next competition. "We did some advance testing on the vehicle. Things like emissions testing, drivability so going over speed bumps and things like that to see how the car reacted," says student Hagan Walker. Now, that the students are back, they're not wasting any time preparing for their final competition in June.
Civil War documentary previews Monday at MSU
Mississippi State University Libraries and the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library will offer a special preview of the new PBS documentary series "Civil War: The Untold Story." For the March 17 screenings, director and producer Chris Wheeler will be in attendance. Episode 1, "Bloody Shiloh," will show at 1 p.m. in the Charles H. Templeton, Sr. Music Museum at Mitchell Memorial Library, and Episode 2, "A Beacon of Hope," will show at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Simrall Hall. Admission is free and open to all. "Civil War: The Untold Story" is a 5-hour documentary series that breaks new ground by examining the war through the lens of the Western Theater -- battles in the strategic lands between the Appalachians and Mississippi River.
Roseanne Cash brings latest album to MSU Riley Center
She's lived up North for more than two decades, but listen to her most recent album and you'll find that Roseanne Cash's Southern roots and country music pedigree do not fade with time or separation. Released in January 2014, "The River & The Thread" is Cash's 13th studio album, and her brief tour promoting its release comes to the Riley Center Saturday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m. A pre-show will take place at 6 p.m.
Peanut Farming Growing Industry in Mississippi
From tree farming to traditional crop farming, agriculture is a $7.5-billion industry in Mississippi. Products from one crop that's growing in popularity in the state could very well be found inside some of your favorite snacks. Within the last six years, the number of peanut farmers in Mississippi has grown from less than a dozen to more than 100. "Mississippi State University has committed to hire a peanut agronomist; we have him on staff now," says Mississippi Peanut Grower Association President Malcolm Broome. "So, that's somebody who can help these growers with their cultural practices. Putting all of that together, we seem to think that we have upward potential quite a bit here within the next few years."
Okolona Poultry Farmer Learns From MSU
Okolona poultry grower Joe Ellis did not even want the Mississippi State University Extension Service professor to get out of his vehicle unless he had practical experience raising chickens. Tom Tabler was new to Mississippi, but he was not new to the challenges poultry growers like Ellis face every day -- and sometimes night. "I know what it feels like to wake up to alarms going off at 3 in the morning," said Tabler, the MSU Extension poultry specialist.
Autism clinic expands psychology services at MSU
Families with children who struggle with autism and other developmental disabilities have a new resource at Mississippi State University. MSU officials say the newly opened Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic represents a logical expansion of the university's School Psychology Services Center. The center and clinic are units of the College of Education and its counseling and educational psychology department. Both are open to the public. Director Daniel L. Gadke, a licensed psychologist, said all services are rooted in applied behavior analysis and designed to be affordable.
Creek Indian War lecture held in Columbus
Attendees at the Plymouth Bluff Center in Columbus explored the early 1800s during a monthly seminar. Mississippi State University-Meridian archaeology lecturer Jack Elliot Jr. spoke to a crowded room Sunday about Plymouth Bluff and the Creek Indian War as well as how it impacted the area. This year marks the bicentennial of the war that began in 1812 and lasted until 1815. Sunday at the Bluffs programs are open to the public at no charge.
Workshop at MSU-Meridian to prepare students for GRE
Anyone preparing to take the Graduate Record Examination may benefit from a workshop to be held April 5 at Mississippi State University-Meridian. The workshop, which is sponsored by the MSU Meridian Psychology Club, will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the College Park Campus. The purpose of the MSU-Meridian based workshop is to familiarize students with the three major domains of the exam and current test-taking strategies. Presenters will be Dr. Lin Ge, instructor, and Dr. James Kelley, associate professor of English. During the workshop, Ge will cover the quantitative portion of the GRE and Kelley will lead discussions on preparing for the verbal/writing portion.
Golden Triangle sales tax returns up slightly
Sales tax dispersions to Golden Triangle cities were up slightly in January when compared to January 2013. Starkville reached a record $437,145.21 for this month, a $6,352.27 increase from what it reported this month last year. Starkville's 2 percent hotel tax revenues were down sharply from this month last year, when the city reported a return of $23,302.63. This month, that amount was only $10,839.50.
Search process continues for Starkville community developer
Nine candidates applied for Starkville's vacant community developer job, one of the last high-tier positions the city has left to fill, Personnel Director Randy Boyd confirmed. Aldermen have not set a date for interviews but could do so in their 5:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall, Mayor Parker Wiseman said. Since the board took over last year, the city experienced wholesale changeover in numerous leadership positions.
Supervisors could choose county administrator today
Oktibbeha County's search for a new administrator could drag into April unless supervisors pull the trigger on a hire during their 5:30 p.m. meeting today at the county courthouse. Heading into the past weekend, three supervisors said they were ready to conclude the process but, hinting at the self-described informal nature of the search, declined to say if they would make a motion to hire one of the remaining three candidates. It's up to the collective will of the board, they said.
Reversal of fortune has Airbus flying high
Nothing is ever certain, but the outlook for Airbus Helicopters' Columbus plant and its 280 employees is significantly more promising than it was last May. It was then that outgoing Airbus Group's chief executive Sean O'Keefe wrote an editorial in a defense industry magazine about cuts to the Pentagon's budget under sequestration. He feared at the time the budget cuts would compromise the future of the UH-72 Lakota helicopter program. Shortly after formalizing its commitment during a ceremony earlier this month to begin making the AStars here March 5, more reports emerged that the U.S. Army's budget proposal for next year called for a $245.4 million increase in funding for the Lakotas. Sam Adcock, the Columbus plant's vice president and general manager, said the recent developments are "certainly good news," but remains cautious. "It's important to remember this is a proposal and ultimately Congress must pass a budget and appropriate money. That's a months-long process," Adcock said.
In Mississippi, a power plant is designed to shape the future of coal
Looming like a spaceship over pine and sweet-gum forest, the high-tech power plant under construction in rural Kemper County is a $5-billion wager on an energy future that includes coal. The Kemper plant is scheduled to open this year as the first in the United States to ramp up technology to remove carbon dioxide emissions on a large scale. If it works as planned, up to 65 percent of the plant's potential carbon dioxide emissions would be removed. But if its progress is any indication, building a coal plant that can sharply reduce greenhouse gas pollution is a white-knuckle ride.
Merit pay unconstitutional? House leaders think so
The fight over the teacher pay bill in the Mississippi Legislature might not be over the size of the salary increase, but whether to have a performance pay component. Earlier this week, the House, at the urging of its leadership, rejected the pay package proposed by the Senate, opting to invite conference where three members from each chamber will try to reach a final agreement. Both chambers then will have the option to accept or reject that agreement. Part of the reason the House rejected the Senate proposal is that Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and his leadership team maintain the Senate's performance-based component is unconstitutional.
DUI law could get tougher
The Mississippi House and Senate both want motorists convicted of driving under the influence to install devices that would keep their vehicles from starting if the driver has alcohol on his or her breath. The state's current ignition interlock law, set to take effect July 1, gives judges the option of suspending the driver's license of a first-offense DUI offender for 90 days or ordering a 30-day suspension plus use of an interlock for six months. Changes passed by both chambers would make an ignition interlock device mandatory for a period of time for everyone convicted of DUI. "It's the hardest bill I have worked on in seven years," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg. "This has been a very difficult bill."
Bills could strengthen access to Mississippi public info
Mississippians seeking government records could soon have a stronger appeal route while avoiding court, and they might be charged less for the records. Senate Bill 2507 would allow the Ethics Commission to enforce the state Public Records Act instead of only issuing advisory opinions. Meanwhile, House Bill 928 would require agencies to use the lowest-paid qualified employee to review records, sometimes cutting charges for staff time. The Ethics Commission bill was headed to final negotiations between the House and Senate. Both chambers have agreed on the cost-limitation bill, and it was headed to Gov. Phil Bryant for his consideration. Layne Bruce, executive director of the Mississippi Press Association, said giving the power to enforce public records law to the Ethics Commission "only makes sense" because the body already has the power to enforce state open meetings laws.
State agencies face budget deficits
About $85 million is being earmarked by Mississippi senators to cover deficits this year in state agencies' budgets, including $50 million in the Division of Medicaid and $15 million in the Department of Corrections. Those are the two agencies with the biggest deficits. Medicaid requested a deficit appropriation of $105 million, and MDOC requested $22 million. Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, said he believes the amount approved by the Senate will be enough to get Medicaid and Corrections through the current budget year, which ends June 30. The measure now heads to a House-Senate conference committee.
AP analysis: Mississippi ability to borrow still adequate, report says
Mississippi could borrow $1.8 billion to use for new buildings, highways and economic development incentives over the next five years and rising state revenue probably could support that amount of borrowing, a report by Treasurer Lynn Fitch suggests. The Republican state treasurer compiled a debt-affordability study after agencies that rate Mississippi's bonds said the state needed a roadmap for future borrowing. "This is a critical tool to assess the debt, future payments on the debt and the amount of bonds that will be required in future years," Fitch said as she unveiled the report earlier this month. Fitch did not call for either an increase or decrease in borrowing. But despite still-low interest rates, don't count on a surge in borrowing while Lt. Gov Tate Reeves is around.
Lee legislators: State to help Cooper Tire
Legislators representing Lee County all say they support providing $20 million in incentives to help Cooper Tire upgrade its Tupelo plant and are optimistic it will pass this session. The optimism remains even though no bills have been filed this session to spur the Findlay, Ohio-based company to invest $140 million to update its Tupelo plant. The issue has not been discussed in either chamber of the Mississippi Legislature. "I am very optimistic that we will get something," said Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, who said she recently visited the plant to learn more about the proposed new equipment and renovations. The investment would ensure that Cooper remains in Tupelo and, according to Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, would guarantee continued growth of the Tupelo plant because of how efficient it would become.
Why African-Americans are moving back to the South
When Charlie Cox told his friends he was leaving Chicago, no one tried to talk him out of it. After 35 years at General Motors, he was ready to retire. Ready to trade the cold and the crime and the frenetic pace of life for the rivers and fields of his youth. He had grown up in rural West Point, Miss., and he had moved north with his family when he was 9 years old, but somehow his heart had never quite followed. His spirit yearned for the South, and, as the years passed, the memories of his childhood burned brighter until he couldn't stand it any longer. His decision is one unfolding in African-American households across the nation. After decades of mass exodus, blacks are returning to the South in one of the most notable migrations of the new century.
Government computers running Windows XP will be vulnerable to hackers after April 8
The deadline for installing secure operating systems on federal government computers will pass next month with the job incomplete, leaving hundreds of thousands of machines running outdated software and unusually vulnerable to hackers. Federal officials have known for more than six years that Microsoft will withdraw its free support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Despite a recent rush to complete upgrades, an estimated 10 percent of government computers -- out of several million -- will still be running the operating system on that date, company officials said. Security experts warn that hackers have been preparing for what Microsoft calls the "end-of-life" for Windows XP by stockpiling "vulnerabilities" that amount to skeleton keys that can give intruders remote access.
Rankins focuses on future at Alcorn State University
Alfred Rankins Jr.'s return to the Alcorn State University campus today will be somewhat of a homecoming for the man charged to be the institution's 19th president. The campus and university are ones Rankins knows well, having graduated from Alcorn with a degree in agricultural economics. But Rankins, 42, said he won't have much time to dwell on the past if he wants to keep the nation's oldest historically black land-grant school moving in the future. "I really can't get caught up in the nostalgia of it all, because there's a lot of work to do," Rankins said. "It will be good to come back to Alcorn, but my focus will be on rolling up my sleeves and getting to work."
UM parking guru: Experiments, expectations
Mike Harris says countless variables can be managed in the quest for more effective parking and transportation strategies on the University of Mississippi campus. But just as important, he says, is managing expectations. "When I go to the doctor's office, I expect to sit there for 45 minutes before I see the doctor. When I go to a drive-through, I don't expect to be sitting for 30 minutes waiting on a cheeseburger," said Harris, who joined Ole Miss as director of parking and transportation on Feb. 24 after 14 years at Mississippi State University. "It's all about expectation levels and ...modifying that." Harris will oversee a host of changes as constant construction on the campus closes some roads and parking lots, creates new ones, offers new strategies from more public transit and a fast-tracked parking garage to smart-phone apps that can help identify open parking spaces.
Court to hear cases at Ole Miss
The Mississippi Court of Appeals heads to the University of Mississippi in April to hear arguments in two cases. The Appeals Court periodically schedules oral arguments on college campuses -- and occasionally at other locations -- as a teaching tool for students. It is known as the "Court on the Road" program. A panel of three Appeals Court judges will answer questions from Ole Miss students after the oral arguments but will not talk about the cases that are argued.
U. of Southern Mississippi to upgrade popular landmark
University of Southern Mississippi officials believe when major upgrades are completed popular Lake Byron, the landmark will be more accessible and more attractive than at any time during its 80-year history. The lake is located at the front of the campus where a tornado struck last year. Lake Byron was completed in 1934 as a memorial gift from that year's senior class.
USM ROTC cadet named Soldier of the Year
William Landrum of Hattiesburg is earning his stripes as a soldier in the Mississippi Army National Guard and cadet in the University of Southern Mississippi's U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corp. A sophomore criminal justice major at Southern Miss, Landrum was recently named the State Guard's Soldier of the Year after besting the competition in a series of exercises, both physical and mental, to earn the title. The achievement earned him the right to move on to regional competition.
USM journalism workshop to focus on Freedom Summer
The University of Southern Mississippi School of Mass Communication and Journalism is accepting applications for a multimedia journalism workshop June 15-22 on the university's Hattiesburg campus. WDAM-TV reported the workshop will focus on the Freedom Summer events of 1964. Selected participants will study under professional journalists and the Southern Mississippi journalism faculty. They will meet with newsmakers and cover stories, produce television and radio newscasts, a newspaper and a website. Mississippi students currently in grades 10 through 12 are eligible to apply for the free workshop.
Auburn University to open state-of-the-art wellness kitchen
In August, all Auburn University students will have access to a state-of-the-art Wellness Kitchen designed to help young people use food as fuel. The $6.6 million, 10,000-square-foot facility is located next to the new parking deck and across the street from the new South Donahue Residence Hall on Donahue Drive. Bailey-Harris Construction of Auburn is building the facility. It will offer multiple fresh and healthy food stations designed for a variety of dietary needs. The facility will seat 214 inside, with a meeting room that will seat about 50 people, according to Glenn Loughridge, director of campus dining at Auburn. There will also be a deck with about 80 more seats.
Auburn wins hovercraft challenge against Alabama
Thomas Wills will be the first to tell you that driving a hovercraft can be terrifying. A hovercraft, which can weigh between 300 and 600 pounds, derives speed solely from engine powered fans and momentum, causing the vehicle to essentially float along a frictionless surface at speeds as fast as 55 mph. "A car relies on the friction between the tires and the road to turn. We don't have that," said Wills, a junior majoring in polymer and fiber engineering at Auburn University. "You can literally be driving sideways and speeding up." However, such a fear didn't stop Wills and other Auburn engineering students from racing a handmade hovercraft against engineering students from the University of Alabama during the second annual University Hoverbowl Challenge, which was held Saturday near the Auburn Research Park at the corner of South College Street and East University Drive.
LSU AgCenter explores new way to bait, kill wild hogs
The exploding feral hog population in the southeastern U.S. causes an estimated $1.5 billion in damage every year as the voracious eaters root up pastures, destroy crops, pull up seeds, damage forests and generally wreak havoc everywhere they go. Animal scientists are looking at different ways to control the notoriously fertile beasts. LSU's Agricultural Center is working on another strategy that could one day be used in conjunction with the sharpshooting to get wild hog populations under control. Phil Elzer, the AgCenter's program leader for animal sciences, said the idea is to use the animals' legendary greediness against them in developing a bait that proves lethal to wild pigs, without harming other animals.
Machen ends U. of Florida law school dean search, recommends interim instead
The search for a new dean for the University of Florida Levin College of Law has failed. UF President Bernie Machen said in a letter to law faculty and staff Friday afternoon that he has decided to end the search for outgoing Dean Robert Jerry's successor for this academic year. "The final slate forwarded to the Provost and to me included accomplished candidates, but we did not find one ideally suited to lead the College through a decade that will be simultaneously challenging for the profession and replete with opportunities for growth and advancement," Machen said.
U. of South Carolina's Open Book series has some heavyweights
For the third spring, Elise Blackwell will lead Columbia's reading community through a five-week contemporary literature course in the form of The Open Book series of visiting authors, sponsored by the University of South Carolina's College of Arts & Sciences. This year's lineup features Yiyun Li, David Mitchell, Jennifer Egan, Charles Johnson, and Martin Amis. The mix of well-known and less-well-known will surprise none of the hundreds of people who have attended in years past, but it is the stellar names -- the previous two years included Ian McEwan, Marilyn Robinson, John Banville, Colum McCann and Nicole Krause -- that give the series added oomph. There is, Blackwell said, "a tremendous appetite in Columbia for literary events," something that The Open Book is designed to both satisfy and stimulate.
Lists of top earners at U. of Missouri show few changes for 2013-14
There were not many notable salary changes this year at the University of Missouri, with the exception of MU's new chancellor, a couple MU football coaches and a few administrators. MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who makes $450,000 a year, is the ninth highest-paid person at MU, according to salary information released by the university. And two MU football coaches, defensive coordinator Dave Steckel ($600,000) and offensive coordinator Josh Henson ($550,000), will become the second and third highest-paid MU employees, respectively, after it was announced earlier this month that they would receive raises. Overall, MU and UM System officials are working to increase salaries to be competitive with similar schools.
Bill Nye uses humor to boost science literacy during talk at Missouri
Inspiring passion for science historically has been a tough job, but Bill Nye -- best known as the affable, bow tie-clad host of the PBS program "Bill Nye the Science Guy" -- has put his money on using humor to get the message across. Nye was the featured guest for the 10th annual MU Life Sciences and Society Symposium, a well-attended lecture Saturday morning at Jesse Auditorium on the University of Missouri campus. The symposium's theme this year is "Decoding Science," which focuses on improving the public's scientific literacy. Nye said he is optimistic that the young scientists sweating it out in laboratories now are going to provide solutions to some of the toughest problems.
Raises for Public-College Faculty Edge Past Those at Private Colleges
For the first time in at least six years, the median base salary of professors at public colleges increased at a greater rate than that of their private-college counterparts, according to an annual report released this week by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. "As state economies continue to improve, it is most definitely time for state legislatures to allocate adequate salary-increase funds to acknowledge the great work of faculty and staff," Andy Brantley, the association's president and chief executive officer, wrote in an email to The Chronicle. "High-performing faculty and staff are also becoming more mobile as the economy improves," he wrote, so that retaining "key talent" depends to a significant extent on competitive salaries.
BILL CRAWFORD (OPINION): Most state employees need raise
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "State employees can't get a break. Well, most can't. In 2012, Mississippi had 58,135 state employees earning an average salary of $41,870, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A Pew Charitable Trusts study reported this was significantly higher than the $35,263 average private sector salary in Mississippi. Couple this with the state's generous retirement plan -- few, if any, private sector retirement plans are anywhere near as generous -- and you get a glimpse of why many think state employees don't deserve a break. But, wait a minute..."
PAUL HAMPTON (OPINION): One prediction: It's one unpredictable race
The Sun Herald's Paul Hampton writes: " Bailing on the Democratic Party was Gene Taylor's only chance. Taylor said as much himself and a researcher at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs backs him up. 'Obviously, Mr. Taylor's calculus was correct,' research associate Eric Ostermeier said. 'If he wants to get back in Congress're looking at a district that the way it's drawn compared to when he was in is the most Republican-leaning district in the state. I think it's in the Top 25 (of GOP districts) in the nation.' ...But will the voters buy Gene Taylor the Republican?"
BOBBY HARRISON (OPINION): Arkansas, Mississippi offer stark contrast on Medicaid
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "Folks in Arkansas -- as a general rule -- don't like Barack Obama much. Arkansans like the Democratic president even less than people in Mississippi do, and it appears to me that most people here dislike the president a whole bunch. ...Yet Arkansas, with Republican majorities in both its House and Senate, is participating in Obamacare -- officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. To be precise, Arkansas is participating in the expansion of Medicaid that allows people and families earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 for an individual, to be covered by Medicaid. In lieu of doing a straight Medicaid expansion as is allowed under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration is allowing Arkansas to provide private health insurance coverage to the people who would have been eligible to be covered by Medicaid expansion."
SID SALTER (OPINION): Free community college tuition push grows
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "House Bill 424, known as the Mississippi Promise Community College Tuition Gap Pilot Program, died in committee on March 4 after being referred to the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee. ...For the state's community colleges, the push for the program outlined in HB 424 isn't over. ...Across the country, fears of unintended consequences both in the community college systems and the four-year institutions are a driving force behind the reluctance of many state legislators to implement programs of this nature that have already flamed out in earlier iterations in California and New York. But in Mississippi, access to higher education has been an overarching concern for decades and that will continue."

Mississippi State sweeps twinbill at Georgia
After Mississippi State dropped its SEC opener Friday night 7-1, head coach John Cohen challenged his club to take better swings at the plate and wanted a better showing on the mound. Cohen got both results as the 24th-ranked Diamond Dogs swept a Saturday doubleheader from Georgia, 6-1 and 4-1, to take the weekend series. "We've got to put the ball in the hands of the guys that got us to Omaha a year ago," Cohen said. "That's what this whole day was about was about those guys, and I'm just so excited with what they did." Ross Mitchell tossed a complete game in the first tilt in just his second career start. Mitchell (3-1) allowed one run on four hits with five strikeouts and four walks improving to 19-1 for his career.
Off-Season Priority List for Mississippi State
Few argue Rick Ray inherited a program under reconstruction. In his first two seasons at Mississippi State, he dealt with fewer than eight scholarship players. Year 3 of the project should begin to take form of a competitive basketball team. The Bulldogs trip to Atlanta revealed the team's potential and, again, underscored its flaws. Mississippi State's sophomores played their best basketball at the end of the season. Craig Sword, Fred Thomas and Gavin Ware showed the skills of a trio Ray can build around. Roquez Johnson, I.J. Ready and Trivante Bloodman continued to show promise.
Player development could provide key for Ray, Bulldogs
Mississippi State coach Rick Ray shocked many when he proclaimed the opening round game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament would determine the outlook of the next season. The context of the statement was the emphasis wouldn't be on the result but on the mental outlook of his players heading into a critical offseason. Following a 82-68 victory over Vanderbilt Wednesday, it's not surprising Ray got the effort, the result and a positive future outlook for his program. "A lot of people could have just pitched up the tent and headed into the offseason content with being in last place and not even trying to advance on in the SEC tournament," Ray said after the win. "Our guys stayed the course and really stuck with it."
LOGAN LOWERY (OPINION): Still too early to judge Ray
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Logan Lowery writes: "When the decision was made for Rick Stansbury to "retire," the consensus among the Mississippi State fan base was to bring in a coach who could produce a team that would be both disciplined and play with consistent effort. Rick Ray was not considered a huge coaching name when he was hired on April 1, 2012 and many Bulldog faithful went scrambling to their computers to Google this guy and make sure it was not some sort of April Fool's joke. So far, Ray has gone 24-41 during his first two seasons in Starkville. I've had people ask my opinion of Ray's job performance. I really think it would be an injustice to Ray for me to judge him based on the body of work I have seen thus far."
Stansbury 'unlikely' for Auburn's vacancy
It looks like the bubble of speculation about Rick Stansbury as a serious candidate for the Auburn men's basketball coaching job lost a little air over the weekend. Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky said in Sunday's paper that "it appears unlikely at this point" that Stansbury will be seriously considered for the job. A news story in the paper did rehash a few other names that quickly came up last week after Tony Barbee was fired, including Donnie Tyndall of Southern Miss, Mike White -- a former Ole Miss player -- of Louisiana Tech and former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.
NCAA snub doesn't surprise Southern Miss fans
Southern Miss fans seemed to know what was afoot Sunday afternoon concerning the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. There was a decided lack of enthusiasm among Golden Eagle fans for watching the official tournament Selection Show at several area sports bars, and the few who did show up to fill out their brackets weren't surprised when USM's name wasn't called. Many USM fans did take to social media to vent their frustrations over the snub by the NCAA Selection Committee.
Fanfare builds for SEC Network
Last week, when DISH Network announced its intentions to carry ESPN's new SEC Network starting this summer, it did more than ensure the fledgling channel will be available in at least 20 million households nationally with about five months to go until the launch date. Getting the nation's third-largest provider on board sends a message to other satellite and cable companies with which ESPN and the Southeastern Conference is negotiating. The SEC Network launches Aug. 14. How much carriage it can achieve -- both within the league's 11-state footprint and nationwide -- and how high a fee it can fetch from the cable and satellite providers will determine how much money the SEC's 14 schools can expect to start sharing.
Senior Allen Payne raises concerns over Auburn's Under Armour sponsorship
Still reeling from the news that his coach had been fired less than an hour earlier, Allen Payne did what a lot of young people do today -- he turned to Twitter to voice his feelings. While en route back to Auburn on the team bus, the Tigers senior forward released a serious of tweets regarding Tigers' athletic director Jay Jacobs' decision to let go of Tony Barbee and his overall thoughts on the program. "I can say this now... We'll struggle as long as we are under Under Armour," Payne tweeted late Wednesday evening. While Jacobs is out searching for Auburn's next head basketball coach, the topic of the Tigers' apparel contract with Under Armour has come under debate from several prominent alumni, fans and players. One of the biggest critics of the Under Armour contract is famous Auburn basketball alum and NBA commentator Charles Barkley, who suggested the only way to build a strong basketball program at Auburn was to sign a basketball-specific deal with Nike.
Who would win the NCAA tournament if the games were decided by academic performance?
It's that time of year again, when the best of the best face off in front of thousands upon thousands of spectators, when office pools make enemies of friends and when March Madness sweeps the nation. Of course, that's not really what we're here for; in this ninth iteration of Inside Higher Ed's annual academic tournament, the bragging rights go to the fans whose team dominates in the classroom, not on the court. While the academic tournament has at times been surprisingly accurate in predicting March Madness victors, last year's tournament threw us for a loop. Academic tournament winner Belmont University was knocked out of the 2013 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I men's basketball tournament in the very first round.

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