Thursday, February 22, 2024   
 
Honeybee researcher at MSU works to understand disease threatening pollinators, specialty crops
Tiny but mighty, the humble honeybee carries the weight of the world's enormous agricultural system on its delicate wings. However, the bacterium Melissococcus plutonius -- commonly known as the causative agent for the European foulbrood disease, or EFB -- threatens the lives of these industrious insects and health of the crops they pollinate, especially blueberries. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, honeybees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the U.S. each year, including more than 130 types of fruits, nuts and vegetables. Priyadarshini "Priya" Chakrabarti Basu, assistant professor in Mississippi State University's Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology, is investigating the causes of and proposing solutions to mitigate EFB's spread and impacts. "Surveys reported that nearly half of commercial honeybee colonies in the U.S. died last year," said Basu, who is also a scientist in the university's Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. "Although EFB is just one of many factors that threaten our colonies, its impact on beekeepers and crop producers is keenly felt as pollination and production costs rise, and those increases are passed on to consumers. The health of our bees affects all of us."
 
House Republican leadership files school voucher bills
Even as the Mississippi Supreme Court considers whether it is constitutional for the state to provide public fund to private schools, the House leadership is filing legislation to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools. House Education Committee Chairman Rob Roberson, a Republican from Starkville, has filed legislation to allow vouchers -- public funds to private schools -- with no limitations. But Roberson stressed that he is not sure what if any voucher legislation will pass this session. He said he filed the legislation "to start a conversation." But during an interview earlier this week on the SuperTalk radio network, Republican House Speaker Jason White seemed more committed to a limited voucher program. White advocated for vouchers for students in low-performing D and F schools. "In D and F districts, we want that child to go anywhere they can find, whether public, private, charter, home school, whatever," White said, adding that state funds would follow the students wherever they went. "If they are in a D and F district, we want to open their choice all the way." He said in states that have "universal choice," like Arizona, a vast majority of students remain in the public school. It is questionable how much momentum there is this session for an expansive voucher program. In his budget plan, Gov. Tate Reeves only recommended expanding by $1.8 million a program that provides public funds for some special needs children to attend private schools.
 
Georgia has the nation's only Medicaid work requirement. Mississippi could be next
After years of refusing to expand Medicaid, some of Mississippi's Republican leaders now say they are open to the policy -- if they can require new enrollees to have a job. That approach could hinge on presidential politics and an ongoing legal battle in Georgia. In a statement to The Associated Press, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said Mississippi must consider all options to improve its labor force participation rate and poor health outcomes, both of which are among the worst in the country. Hosemann said Georgia, the only state that requires Medicaid recipients to meet a work requirement, could be a model for Mississippi. "We need healthy working Mississippians," Hosemann said. "Georgia's successful implementation of a work requirement cleared a path for this conversation in Mississippi." Georgia and Mississippi are among 10 states that haven't expanded Medicaid eligibility to include people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or $20,120 annually for a single person. Mississippi House Speaker Jason White, also a Republican, said in an interview that the state has shown it will refuse to expand Medicaid without a work requirement. "I think we've proved to CMS and the folks in Washington that we will be stubborn and not do it," White told The AP. "So I think they would be more amicable to listen to the idea of, hey, we've got a maybe a little different model here."
 
Republican legislative leaders brush off governor's objections to Medicaid expansion
Legislative leaders on Tuesday pushed back on Republican Gov. Tate Reeves' social media post that criticized state lawmakers for pressing ahead with legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor --- a policy the governor has long opposed. "Some in the MS State Capitol still want Obamacare's Medicaid Expansion," Reeves wrote. "Most -- but not all -- are Democrats." As part of his post, Reeves attached a picture of a 2023 social media post from former Republican President Donald Trump, saying "Obamacare Sucks!!!" Republican leaders in the House and Senate on Tuesday were undeterred by Reeves' remarks and said they are still considering legislation to expand Medicaid coverage to improve some of the state's dire health outcomes and address the high percentage of Mississippians who remain uninsured. House Speaker Jason White, R-West, told Mississippi Today that the governor is entitled to his opinion on Medicaid policy, but he believes the GOP-controlled House will pass a bill this session that expands health insurance to more citizens. "My position's been pretty clear on the fact that we were going to explore and look at Medicaid as it affects hard-working, low-income Mississippians," White said. "My ideas and thoughts about that haven't changed. He's the duly elected governor and he's certainly entitled to his opinions on that matter. I don't hold any of those against him. We just maybe here in the House have a different view of it."
 
Biden Calls Republicans in Congress 'Worse' Than Strom Thurmond
President Biden on Wednesday compared the current generation of Republicans in Congress to racist lawmakers of the past, arguing that today's crop was "worse" because it had sought to undermine the legitimacy of elections. "I've served with real racists," he said at an evening fund-raiser in California. "I've served with Strom Thurmond. I've served with all these guys that have set terrible records on race. But guess what? These guys are worse. These guys do not believe in basic democratic principles." Mr. Biden, who gave a warm eulogy at Mr. Thurmond's funeral in 2003 and apologized during the 2020 campaign for having fondly reminisced about working with Southern segregationists, offered a degree of praise for Mr. Thurmond, the long-serving senator from South Carolina and fierce opponent of integration. "By the time Strom left, he did terrible things," Mr. Biden said, according to a pool report. But he added that Mr. Thurmond ended up having more African Americans "in his staff than any other member in Congress. He voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act." Mr. Biden went on: "I'm not making him more than he was. But my point is, at least you could work with some of these guys." During his 2020 presidential bid, Mr. Biden faced fierce criticism from Democratic opponents for invoking two Southern segregationist senators, James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, both Democrats, as he spoke of the Senate's "civility" in decades past.
 
Nikki Haley says Biden is 'more dangerous' than Trump but neither is fit for the job
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley told NPR that President Biden presents a bigger threat to the country if reelected than his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. Biden is expected to easily clinch the Democratic nomination for a second term while Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. But Haley doesn't believe either of them should have the job. "I have a lot of concerns about Trump regaining the presidency. I have even more concerns about Joe Biden being president. I mean, you look at both of these men and all they have done is given us chaos, all they have given us is division," Haley said. Her solution? "We need to starting bringing normalcy back to America and that's why I think we need to have a new generational leader that focuses on the solutions of the future instead of all the issues of the past," Haley told NPR's Steve Inskeep on Wednesday during in an interview for Morning Edition. She sees herself as that new generation of leader ready to jump into what she has called the toughest job in the world. Still, she has yet to win a primary contest and the next one has the highest stakes yet. It's in her home state of South Carolina. "I think what's really important is to know that the majority of Americans dislike Donald Trump and Joe Biden," she said. "So we think that there needs to be an alternative."
 
The US is known for designing chips, not making them. Can the CHIPS Act funding change that?
Nvidia, one of the country's most valuable companies by market capitalization, reported stronger than expected quarterly results this afternoon. The semiconductor company is known for designing GPUs, the chips that support artificial intelligence. Nvidia is headquartered in California, but its largest manufacturing partner is TSMC in Taiwan. The majority of all chips are manufactured in Asia, but the federal government would love for the U.S. to get a bigger piece of that chipmaking pie. This week, as part of the CHIPS and Science Act, the Biden administration announced it's awarding $1.5 billion to chipmaker GlobalFoundries to expand its manufacturing stateside. Even if they're made elsewhere, the U.S. is far and away the global leader in designing advanced chips, said Harvard Business School professor Willy Shih. Still, he said the private sector is going to have to invest a lot of its own money to build each new chip factory, called a foundry, and then fill it with diamond saws and advanced lithography tools. "And then of course, once you do that, you also need the people to run it," Shih said. Speed matters here, because the U.S. is competing with other countries who are offering their own incentives to chipmakers, said Emily Kilcrease, director of the energy, economics and security program at the Center for a New American Security.
 
MUW Name Change Stalls Again
A week after announcing its second attempt to rename the school, Mississippi University for Women President Nora Miller has released a statement saying they are taking a "strategic pause" in the effort. "In order give our entire community time to regroup and consider all perspectives, we will take a strategic pause at this time as we continue to work toward a future name change," Miller said. The legislation supporting the name change to Wynbridge State University of Mississippi -- HB 1155 -- appears to have stalled in the House Universities and Colleges Committee. An earlier proposal to rename the school as Mississippi Brightwell University also fell through in January. Miller said the school administration remains committed to a future name change. The university, founded in 1884, has said a new name is being considered since its current name -- Mississippi University for Women -- does not effectively reflect the best marketing strategy to incorporate male students.
 
Why the university doesn't 'just accept fewer students'
Since 2021, the University of Mississippi's freshman class sizes have increased by 46% --- from 3,584 to 5,240 freshmen in the 2023-2024 school year. Since the beginning of the fall semester, The Daily Mississippian has reported extensively about how this boom in enrollment is affecting the university community, from insufficient campus housing and longer lines for student union services to difficulty enrolling in already-full classes. This unprecedented growth is a point of pride for the university, as it works each year to find new ways to accommodate more students. A university record 24,710 students enrolled across the school's seven campuses in the fall. Still, many in the university community are asking the question: Why not just limit the number of students accepted? Such a move would not be unprecedented. In early 2023, the University of Tennessee's Office of Undergraduate Admissions revealed that the number of first-year applicants had increased by a staggering 40.7%. This situation -- a boom in first-year interest -- should sound familiar. UT answered by reducing the number of students it admitted. UT's acceptance rate fell to 59.4% for in-state applicants and 33.3% for out-of-state applicants. Currently, UM's overall acceptance rate stands at 97%. So, why hasn't the University of Mississippi done the same?
 
Pulling grads to Mississippi or investments down the drain?
On Jan. 9, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves was sworn in for his second and final term after the state's closest gubernatorial election since 1999. In his inaugural address, Reeves spoke of the various challenges Mississippi has faced over the course of his first term and touted his accomplishments over the past four years. Among other priorities, Reeves talked at length about the economic accomplishments of his administration. Most notably, he emphasized a deal with Steel Dynamics, Inc. that was signed last fall, culminating in a $2.5 billion investment in Mississippi -- the largest in state history. He also laid out his priorities for Mississippi's economic future, stating his desire to create an environment where students can stay in the state for their careers, promising economic projects that would, "fundamentally change lives and transform our state for the better." Students are divided on whether these plans encourage them to stay in Mississippi. At the University of Mississippi, 53.1% of students attending the university's Oxford and regional campuses are not residents of the state, according to institutional enrollment data. For many, Mississippi is a place to get their degree, not a final destination.
 
New scholarship program looks to increase, retain social workers in Mississippi
The Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS) announced a new federal scholarship program to aid the next generation of social workers with financial resources, experience, and placement where needs are the greatest. On Tuesday, MDCPS announced the Mississippi Academic Pathways (MAP) scholarship program. The program utilizes federal IV-E funding to benefit current social work college students. It also provides the department with internship opportunities at no additional cost to the taxpayer. MAP has been made possible by a collaboration of organizations working together for the last two years. Professors from eight universities across Mississippi have worked to promote the program among their students, who were present for the announcement. The first scholarships were awarded in the summer of 2023. Since then, $1.5 million has been awarded. There have been 112 intern scholarships to date spanning across multiple universities in Mississippi. MAP is an innovative program that provides specific and appropriate education for current and prospective MDCPS employees. It allows students to intern in their own communities, serving beyond the classroom and commit to future employment with MDCPS," said Dr. Jerome Kolbo, Director of Social Work at the University of Southern Mississippi, and Principal Investigator for MAP.
 
Alabama closer to banning college DEI programs, implementing university bathroom rules
A bill that would ban diversity and inclusion efforts in Alabama schools and colleges is moving quickly through the state legislature. SB129 would prohibit government institutions, including state agencies, public schools and colleges, from funding a diversity, equity and inclusion office and from sponsoring DEI programs or any program that "advocates for a divisive concept." At least eight of the state's 14 public four-year universities have a specific office devoted to diversity and inclusion efforts. Sen. Will Barfoot, R–Pike Road, filed the bill Tuesday afternoon and a committee voted 7-3 Wednesday to move it to the Senate floor with an amendment. The bill has more than 20 Republican co-sponsors. "The reason that this bill is so difficult is because what others see as problems or potential problems, I don't see that," Barfoot said on the stand Wednesday, after a lengthy public comment and impassioned speeches from Senate Democrats. "It's certainly not the intent." Barfoot's bill is the first to specifically ban DEI programs, and also includes a "bathroom bill" element that would prohibit higher education institutions from allowing individuals to use a restroom that is different from their biological sex.
 
Fearing prosecution, UAB pauses in vitro fertilization after Alabama embryo court ruling
The University of Alabama at Birmingham health system has paused in vitro fertilization procedures following an Alabama Supreme Court decision due to fear of criminal prosecution and lawsuits, a spokeswoman said. A statement emailed by UAB spokeswoman Hannah Echols said they are "saddened" for patients who want to have babies through IVF. She said patients can continue the process up through egg retrieval, but fertilization and embryo development is paused for now. The process, which involves fertilizing eggs outside the body and then transferring embryos to the womb, accounts for about 2 percent of births in the United States, according to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. The UAB Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility made the move after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos had the same status as children in wrongful death lawsuits. A majority of justices on the Alabama Supreme Court, in a decision released Friday, ruled that fertilized eggs and embryos have the same status as children. The opinion referred to embryos, which are often stored in cryogenic freezers, as "extrauterine children." Medical experts warned the decision could limit access to IVF in Alabama. UAB is the first clinic to announce that it is pausing the procedure while officials evaluate potential legal consequences.
 
AI Tennessee Initiative strives to innovate across Tennessee
Lynne Parker, associate vice chancellor at the University of Tennessee and director of the AI Tennessee Initiative, has had an extensive career in artificial intelligence. At a national level, she led AI policy efforts in Washington D.C. in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and served as deputy chief technology officer of the United States. In September of 2022, Parker returned to Knoxville and UT, where she has been a member of the faculty since 2002. The project that she began to spearhead was the AI Tennessee Initiative. "In talking with the leadership here at UT, we decided it would be great for me to come back and lead this new initiative, to really think very holistically about how the state of Tennessee can become more of a leader in the data and AI-driven economy going forward," Parker said. The AI Tennessee Initiative is research and education-focused and aims to engage with communities and industries across Tennessee to utilize the benefits of AI. It aims to help make Tennessee a leader in AI and its future. The AI Tennessee Initiative works closely with colleges across the university to help facilitate research opportunities and to better utilize AI. "We also work very closely with other people who are working here at the university, like the new College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies," Parker said. "We work very closely with them on their new AI 101 class that was taught last fall."
 
UM research aims to improve clean energy production
To create clean energy sources that are affordable and easy to replicate, researchers must first figure out how to efficiently create hydrogen. That is the process University of Mississippi professor Vignesh Sundaresan hopes to improve in his upcoming research. The National Science Foundation has awarded Sundaresan, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, $244,000 in an Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research grant for a partnership with Lane Baker, a Texas A&M electrochemist who specializes in scanning probe techniques. The collaboration's aim is to study electrocatalyst testing methods in hopes of creating more reliable hydrogen production for use in fuel cell-based vehicles and other clean energy-powered devices. "To make clean hydrogen, we need the tools to determine what works best," Sundaresan said. "We must be able to measure the efficiency and stability of hydrogen-producing catalysts. That's the goal of this project." Sundaresan and Shukla will live in College Station for roughly six months over two summers as they work with Baker, and the grant will also fund a summer research program for K-12 students, where Sundaresan said he hopes to encourage students' interest in STEM.
 
What would you do in an emergency? U. of Missouri offers training on what to do until help arrives
The University of Missouri System Office of Emergency Managment is offering training over five dates this semester to students, employees and the public on what to do until help arrives in an emergency. The training is free and open to everyone, but registration is required. "You Are the Help Until Help Arrives" is the title of the training. Individuals can choose one of five dates and times to attend: 9 a.m. Feb. 28; 9 a.m. March 5; 9 a.m. April 9; 2:30 p.m. April 10; or 1 p.m. May 2. The program educates attendees about five simple steps that can be taken immediately following an emergency to provide first-aid care and help save someone's life until first responders arrive. The two-hour interactive course will educate attendees on how to act in emergencies. The course provides instruction on how to make safe care decisions, stop the bleeding of an injured person, position the injured and provide general comfort.
 
Bill would remove U. of Missouri's exclusivity in offering doctoral degrees
A proposal to repeal the University of Missouri's exclusive privilege as the only higher education institution in the state to confer doctoral degrees, including in medicine and engineering, got a hearing before a Senate committee on Wednesday. "Essentially what this bill does," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, "is restore the ability for the Coordinating Board for Higher Education ... to allow needed degrees to be conferred by any institution in the state of higher education." The language of SB 749 specifically reads that it would remove provisions making the University of Missouri the state's only university to grant research-doctorates and first-professional degrees, such as medicine and law. Thomas Strong, a retired lawyer who spoke in favor of the bill during witness testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Empowering Missouri Parents and Children, said it would benefit students all over Missouri, mainly those who don't want to or can't afford to attend Mizzou. "We're losing those students who go to other states, get their education there and remain there to practice their trade or profession," Strong said. "We need to have a system of higher education in Missouri that benefits all students in all parts of the state."
 
Why a Temporary FAFSA Fix for Students With Undocumented Parents Isn't a Full-Fledged Solution
The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday announced a temporary workaround for students who've been unable to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, because one or more of their parents lack a Social Security number. But the nine-step process will stoke more confusion and frustration, some college-access experts predict. And mixed-status families must keep waiting until early March, at the soonest, for a permanent solution to the problem that has launched 1,000 headaches. Nearly two months after the revamped FAFSA became available, parents without a Social Security number still can't contribute to or submit their portion of the online form. The problem has left many students who are U.S. citizens -- and entitled to federal aid -- incapable of completing the application just because they come from a mixed-status family. That barrier is demoralizing, as The Chronicle reported in a recent article: "It just kind of seems unfair," Diana Almaraz, a high-school senior in Forth Worth, Tex., whose mother is undocumented, said of her family's inability to submit the FAFSA at the time. "Like the government doesn't care about us, like their priorities are somewhere else." The Education Department said this week that it will resolve the technical issues preventing parents with a Social Security number from completing the FAFSA "in the first half of March," after which students will be able to submit a completed form. Until then, the new workaround is meant to help applicants who need to record a FAFSA submission date in order to meet early financial-aid deadlines set by colleges, state-aid programs, and private-scholarship providers. But that workaround is an elaborate chore.


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State basketball beats Ole Miss to split series, hurt Rebels' March Madness hopes
Chris Beard finally reached his breaking point in Wednesday's matchup between Ole Miss and Mississippi State basketball. After a stretch of possessions where he was unhappy with the officiating, he had enough. So with 12:17 remaining in the game, the first-year Rebels' coach unleashed on the referee nearest him to earn a technical foul. Perhaps searching for a tactic to fire up his team, Beard instead sparked a Humphrey Coliseum crowd anxious to let him hear it. The Bulldogs (18-8, 7-6 SEC) used it to their advantage, using the momentum to fuel a crucial 10-2 run en route to a 83-71 win. For MSU coach Chris Jans, who earned his own technical foul shortly afterwards, the victory earned a series split against the Rebels (19-7, 6-7) and improved his record to 3-1 against them in two seasons. Wednesday served as a missed opportunity for Ole Miss that could prove costly in the Rebels' quest toward an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. Entering the contest, ESPN projected Ole Miss as the last team in the field of 68. However, with a loss, bracketologist Joe Lunardi said the Rebels would move to the wrong side of the bubble. Mississippi State returns to the road Saturday (7:30 p.m., SEC Network) for a matchup at LSU. Ole Miss returns to the SJB Pavilion on Saturday (2:30 p.m., SEC Network) to face South Carolina.
 
Cameron Matthews key to Mississippi State basketball's March Madness hopes
Cameron Matthews had no business getting to the ball, at least Mississippi State basketball coach Chris Jans didn't think so. "People talk about 50-50 balls, but that was like a 20-80 ball," Jans said Wednesday after MSU's 83-71 win against Ole Miss. "He had about a 20% chance to get that ball and the other kid had about an 80. I didn't think he was going to get it." Matthews proved his coach wrong inside Humphrey Coliseum. After MSU freshman guard Josh Hubbard interrupted an Ole Miss pass, the ball was rolling toward mid-court. Matthews was defending at the 3-point line while Ole Miss' Jaemyn Brakefield was near the half-court logo. Yet it was Matthews who burst by Brakefield like a running back through a hole. He reached down, corralled the ball and drew a foul on his way to the basket – giving Mississippi State (18-8, 7-6 SEC) a lead one minute into the second period after trailing by four at halftime. "I really felt like it set the tone," Jans said. "He did an excellent job coming out of the break." Mississippi State went on to out-score Ole Miss (19-7, 6-7) by 16 in the second half, fueled by Matthews who scored 10 of his 11 points in the frame. Fittingly, he was the force who helped clinched a four-straight win for MSU -- a team playing its best basketball as March Madness approaches.
 
Nationally-Ranked Bulldogs Head To California For Next Challenge
After winning four straight games against ranked opponents last week, No. 25/20 Mississippi State is headed to California for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, where State will again face a challenging slate. The five-game schedule for the Bulldogs begins with two teams that made the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. State opens the tournament against UCF before playing Notre Dame. On Friday, the Bulldogs face their stiffest test of the young season, meeting No. 1/1 Oklahoma at 7:30 p.m. CT. This will mark the fourth year in a row that MSU has played the Sooners. The tournament concludes with games against Cal State Fullerton and Fresno State on Sunday night. State (8-1) is led by NCAA Pitcher of the Week Aspen Wesley in the circle, but she is joined by Josey Marron and Matalasi Faapito to give MSU three arms with ERAs below 1.00 this year. Offensively, seven Bulldogs have already recorded double-digit total bases, and MSU leads the SEC with a .377 batting average that ranks 11th in the nation. Jessie Blaine has been a force at the plate, leading the team in batting average, RBIs, hits, slugging percentage and total bases. She has put forward an impressive 1.302 OPS this year. State is ranked as high as No. 18 this week in the Softball America poll. The Bulldogs are a consensus top-25 team, and are back in all four polls for the first time since reaching the Super Regional round in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
 
With 12-team playoff set, CFP already discussing possibly more teams for 2026 and beyond
Now that the yearslong process to finalize how the 12 teams for the expanded College Football Playoff will be selected for the next two seasons is complete, there are already discussions about maybe adding more teams for 2026 and beyond. The CFP management committee discussed the potential of a 14-team bracket on Wednesday, along with governance of the playoff and the distribution of growing revenue after the next two seasons. But the 10 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame's incoming athletic director did not reach any conclusions after meeting for nearly nine hours in a hotel at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. "Really productive, very collegial, very collaborative," ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said. "Not everybody loves everything all the time. It's just one of those things when you have 11 different entities. But I think really a positive meeting." The CFP and ESPN have agreed in principle to a six-year contract extension that runs through the 2031 football season that's worth about $1.3 billion annually. But that deal isn't done because issues related to revenue distribution and governance have to be worked out. Executive Director Bill Hancock said the CFP would like to be done with the format and new TV deal within about a month. "We need to be done with this," Hancock said. "Today left everyone with an encouraging feeling." Hancock said he wouldn't get into details about any of the discussions concerning revenue, format or governance of the CFP moving forward since everything is subject to discussion and change, but said there were "very positive vibes on everything that we had in front of us."
 
CFP officials discuss expanding to 14-team playoff in 2026
The idea of a 14-team College Football Playoff starting in the 2026 season was discussed at CFP meetings in Dallas on Wednesday, just months before the start of the first season with a 12-team playoff. CFP executive director Bill Hancock acknowledged the idea was discussed but declined to provide specific details, saying, "There's work still to be done." With CFP officials pushing to finalize a deal for a television contract for the next eight years, three lingering issues remain unresolved: access, distribution of money and governance. Hancock said the issues need to be resolved within the next month. According to sources, the most dominant discussion of a new model revolved around a 14-team playoff, and CFP leaders left Wednesday's meeting feeling there was momentum. The bump from 12 to 14 teams, as opposed to 16, would mostly address the issue of access rather than finances. Officials will still need to discuss how a 14-team playoff would split up automatic qualifiers -- for example, could the Big Ten and SEC get as many as four automatic bids? Those early discussions were had Wednesday, with no definitive conclusions. While officials didn't dive too deep into financial issues at Wednesday's meeting, Hancock said there was "more ground-level, detailed conversation than we've been able to have." "I think everybody rolled up their sleeves and just said, 'We need to get to work and share what's on our mind,' and they all did," he said.
 
College Football Playoff officials discuss further expansion for 2026 onward
College football commissioners on Wednesday discussed the possibility of growing the College Football Playoff field to 14 or 16 teams when the next CFP contract goes into effect in 2026. They also broached the possibility of adding more automatic qualifier spots, all while acknowledging they've got about a month to get it done. The detailed conversations on changes were anticipated within the group as the CFP faces pressure and a time crunch to finalize its new television deal with ESPN. The CFP management committee is made up of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director. Members expected the Big Ten and SEC to place specific ideas on the table on Wednesday, and by all accounts they did. "It was the most productive meeting I've been in since I started as commissioner and been fortunate to be in these meetings," Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti said. "We talked about some formatting and 14 came up. There was a good discussion about that. After that, no details other than we've got more work to do. I feel good about the way everyone came together." The 12-team model for 2024 and 2025 is set. The Board of Managers, which is made up of university presidents, approved a move from a 6+6 to a 5+7 model on Tuesday in light of the Pac-12's collapse. Five conference champions will get automatic bids for the next two years with four earning the first-round byes. Seven teams will take up at-large spots. Now the conversation has fully shifted to 2026 onward, where there is no contract in place and decisions don't need unanimity. The management committee met for more than eight hours at DFW Airport on Wednesday, including two hours with just the Power 5 conferences and Notre Dame incoming athletic director Pete Bevacqua.
 
'Now is the time to explore it:' College Football Playoff broaches possibility of expanding to 14
The College Football Playoff's Management Committee convened for a nearly nine-hour meeting Wednesday, found no resolution on a handful of outstanding issues but did broach a headline-grabbing possibility sure to attract significant attention in the coming weeks: The newly expanded 12-team tournament may expand even further -- to 14 teams -- for the 2026 season and beyond. In a dizzying development for some, it bears repeating: College Football Playoff stakeholders are already discussing the possibility of further tournament expansion before anyone has even seen what a 12-team playoff actually looks like. That format takes hold this season. "Fourteen teams was discussed -- it is a possibility," American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco told On3 after the meetings. "You have some large conferences with a lot of members, and there are a lot of marquee teams." As Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark added, "Now it is time to explore it." Several commissioners characterized the meeting overall as "very productive," as the Management Committee -- consisting of 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director -- began the heavy lifting of addressing issues that include voting rights, a revenue distribution model and a tournament format for 2026 and beyond. The clock is ticking -- and stakeholders know it.
 
Nick Saban wants to be voice for change in college football
Nick Saban is retired from coaching, but he emphasized Wednesday that he isn't retired from doing his part to help bring some reform, uniformity and "common sense" to college football and the lingering chaos surrounding the sport. "If my voice can bring about some meaningful change, I want to help any way I can, because I love the players, and I love college football," Saban told ESPN. "What we have now is not college football -- not college football as we know it. You hear somebody use the word 'student-athlete.' That doesn't exist." Saban, 72, retired in January after winning six national championships in 17 seasons at Alabama and another at LSU in 2003. He now occupies an office adjacent to the south end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium and works as an adviser to the university. He also will serve as a college football and NFL draft analyst for ESPN. While still coaching at Alabama, Saban said, he understood that any critique he made of the current NIL climate combined with the transfer portal -- in particular the lack of rules on agents shopping around players in the portal and schools bidding on high school players through donor-based collectives -- could come across as self-serving. But now that he is no longer coaching, Saban plans to take an even stronger stance. "I'm not really looking for a job, but I do know I'd like to impact college football the best way I can, whether it's being a spokesperson or anything else," Saban said. "Listen, I'm for the players. It's not that I'm not for the players. I want to see the players have a great quality of life and be able to create value for themselves. But we've gone to nobody talking about education, nobody talking about creating value for their future, to talking only about how much money can I make while I'm in college."



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