Wednesday, February 20, 2019  SUBSCRIBE   
MSU President Mark Keenum notes link between state's income level, number of people with college degrees
During Monday's visit to the Starkville Rotary Club, Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum drew a distinct line connecting the problems most affecting the state and higher education's role in addressing them. "I thought I would share some information about the importance of higher education in this state," Keenum told his audience. "We all love Mississippi. Most of us were probably born and raised here and want to see our state prosper and grow. Unfortunately, Mississippi is ranked at the bottom of per capita income and next to last in the percentage of citizens with a four-year college degree." Keenum noted just 20 percent of Mississippians have attained college degrees. In Connecticut, which leads the nation in the percentage of its citizens with degrees, 40 percent have a college diploma. "It just so happens that Connecticut is at the top of the list for per capita income," he said. "There is a direct correlation between higher education and income."
President Mark Keenum updates Rotarians on Mississippi State
Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum updated Starkville Rotarians about the progression of the university over the years as he enters his second decade as president of the university. Over the weekend, MSU officially opened its new and improved Dudy Noble Field with a grand opening ceremony. "It is the Taj Mahal as Coach Ron Polk said of all of college baseball and I could not be more proud of that great achievement," Keenum said. One of the goals of the 141 year old institution is to grow. This past year the university set an all-time enrollment record with over 22,000 students. "Most of us were born and raised here, this is our home and we're proud of Mississippi," Keenum said. "We want to see our state continue to grow and prosper like all of the other 49 states." Mississippi ranks toward the bottom in most studies, per capita income in particular, according to Keenum. "We also rank at the bottom when you look at the number of our adults in this state who have obtained at least a four-year college degree," Keenum said.
New vaccination tech may lead to better survival, bigger catfish
Mississippi State University-developed vaccination technologies are being commercialized to help the catfish industry save millions of dollars, according to the university. Mississippi leads the U.S. in catfish production with 160 catfish operations across 36,000 acres statewide in 2018, with a total production value of $164 million. Additionally, Mississippi is responsible for about 90% of the U.S. industry's catfish fingerling production. Licensed and delivered by DelTaq Fish Health LLC using an Mississippi State-designed platform, the oral catfish vaccination service based in Bolivar County is helping combat a devastating bacterial disease that could cost the state industry more than $40 million annually, the announcement said. "MAFES is very pleased to see these technologies commercialized to enhance the profitability of our growers," said George Hopper, MAFES director and dean of the Mississippi State College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.
Oral vaccine could save US catfish farmers millions
New vaccination techniques developed by Mississippi State University should help the state's catfish industry save $40 million a year. Mississippi is the largest catfish producer in the US -- in 2018 its 160 catfish producers harvested fish worth $164 million. The state is also responsible for about 90 percent of the industry's catfish fingerling production. Leading the decade-long development of the vaccine and delivery method is MSU research professor David Wise, who said higher survival, better feed conversion and better catfish growth due to the vaccine translates into more pounds of fish harvested per acre for the state's producers. "We've determined that vaccinated fish populations produce $2,000 to $2,400 higher net revenue per acre than those unvaccinated. That's about a 30 percent increase in production," said Wise, who also is coordinator of the university's Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center.
Supes approve SMART paratransit service expansion funding
Oktibbeha County unanimously approved a $50,000 request that will expand the Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit system's paratransit service into the county. Jeremiah Dumas, MSU's director of Parking and Transit Services, updated supervisors Monday on the SMART system's performance and requested the funding to expand the paratransit offering. The paratransit service serves people with disabilities who need wheelchair accessible vehicles. Dumas' presentation for supervisors, which he also showed Starkville aldermen at their last meeting, shows the paratransit service provided 4,000 unique trips in 2018 -- or about 331 per month. The service added 29 new members and provided 1,325 chair lift trips, or about 102 per month. Dumas said the paratransit service is offered in the SMART system's main service area and a 1.5-mile buffer zone around it. That area serves about 34,000 people, he said, and there are about 14,000 people who live outside it.
'A man of unshakable faith': Mississippi State remembers alumnus killed in Aurora, Ill. shooting
At 1:24 p.m. on Friday, Terra Pinkard received a text from her husband Josh Pinkard. It said: "I love you, I've been shot at work." It was the last thing Josh would ever tell her. Josh Pinkard, a native of Holly Pond, Alabama, and alumnus of Mississippi State University, was one of five people killed at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois, on Friday when another employee opened fire on the plant. MSU issued a press release Monday announcing Josh Pinkard was not only a university graduate, but a 2005 cum laude alumnus. He graduated with a degree in industrial engineering and was a member of the Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College. Even years after he graduated, Josh was still remembered by university professors and staff. Stanley F. Bullington, a professor and graduate coordinator with MSU's Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, taught Josh in five classes. "He was a truly outstanding student -- always at, or near, the top of his class," Bullington said in an email to The Dispatch. "But I am happy to say that, from everything I knew, he was even a better person than he was a student. I'm so gratified to see what a wonderful husband and father he became. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as they deal with this terrible loss."
Incumbents Shane Aguirre and Randy Boyd draw election challengers
Several Northeast Mississippi lawmakers have drawn opponents hoping to block their re-election bids. Local education policy guru and researcher Cathy Grace will run as a Democrat against Shane Aguirre, a Republican completing his first term in the state House of Representatives. Aguirre, an accountant, represents District 17, which includes central and northwest Tupelo and some of surrounding Lee County, including the Bissell, Palmetto and Pleasant Grove areas. Grace is co-director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the University of Mississippi. Her time in the classroom includes experience as a first-grade teacher in the Mississippi Delta to positions as a professor at multiple public universities in Mississippi. Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie, will also face opposition. Pegg Schumpert Hussey has qualified as a Republican in District 19, which includes swathes of Lee and Monroe counties. Hussey ran against Boyd in 2015 on a pro-education platform, even espousing support for Initiative 42.
Former longtime Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree running for Mississippi secretary of state
Former longtime Hattiesburg mayor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Johnny DuPree on Tuesday filed to run for secretary of state. DuPree said election reform will be his top issue, and that his experience as a mayor, a school board member and president, a real estate agent and a small business owner make him qualified for the office. No other Democrat has publicly announced a run for the office, but two Republicans, state Sen. Michael Watson and Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton, are running in the GOP primary. DuPree, 65, served as mayor of Hattiesburg from 2001-2017. In 2011, he was the Democratic nominee for governor, the first African-American to be elected nominee for governor for a major party since Reconstruction. "I was just about content with private life," DuPree said when asked why he decided to run. "But I started teaching a policy course at (the University of Southern Mississippi) and I talked to and interacted with a lot of young people. It totally surprised me how much work we still need to do with voting, elections -- the underpinnings of our democracy."
A Guest in a divided House: Mississippi's newest congressman adjusts to life on Capitol Hill
Five days after his swearing in, Mississippi's newest U.S. Rep. Michael Guest sat with two friends at a table in the back of The Monocle, the venerable Capitol Hill steakhouse favored by the city's political elite. After he finished his steak and waiters cleared the table, Guest admitted his first week in office had been grueling. "We come in, get sworn in at noon, and immediately go into a series of votes out there," an energetic Guest told two reporters sitting a few tables over. "But it's been going well so far." Guest arrives in Washington at a time when Congress has rarely been more divided or gridlocked, exemplified by the partial government shutdown that lasted a record-breaking five weeks. At the end of his second week in office, Guest, who spent a decade as the district attorney for Rankin and Madison counties, talked with Mississippi Today about what he hoped to achieve over the next two years, at a time when national attention bypassed new Republicans like Guest to focus on the wave of progressive, diverse, freshmen now part of the House majority.
In his first speech, White House science adviser stresses the importance of the private sector
In his first major speech since being sworn in, the leading scientist in the Trump administration emphasized the growing importance of private companies in basic research and downplayed the importance of the government's investment in science. White House science adviser Kelvin Droegemeier took the stage at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to describe his vision of the nation's research ecosystem as one that has changed dramatically since the end of World War II, when the government made a major push to fund basic scientific research. Droegemeier stopped short of specific recommendations on what should happen to the government's investment in science, but the emphasis on other sources of funding and innovation was noticeable in an address to an auditorium full of scientists who often depend on federal funding to run their laboratories. He called for "alpha institutes" that could be located at colleges and universities and funded primarily by companies and nonprofit foundations.
Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump's Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him
As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump's role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call. Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement.
Trump rails against the press after NYT report
President Donald Trump on Wednesday labeled The New York Times "the enemy of the people" in a tweet, attacking the newspaper over a report in which it spelled out the president's alleged efforts to influence ongoing investigations into his campaign and allies. "The New York Times reporting is false," the president wrote online Wednesday morning. "They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!" Trump did not refute any specific parts of the Times report in the tweet, though he responded on Tuesday to a reporter's question about the piece regarding former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. The president also railed against the press on Twitter earlier Wednesday, saying it has "never been more dishonest." "The writers don't even call asking for verification," Trump tweeted. "They are totally out of control. Sadly, I kept many of them in business. In six years, they all go BUST!" Maggie Haberman, one of the Times reporters who authored the piece, said Wednesday on CNN that the Times reached out to the White House multiple times before publishing the report.
The Washington Post sued by family of Covington Catholic teenager
The family of the Kentucky teen who was involved in an encounter with a Native American advocate at the Lincoln Memorial last month filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post on Tuesday, seeking $250 million in damages for its coverage of the incident. The suit alleges that The Post "targeted and bullied" 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann in order to embarrass President Trump. Sandmann was one of a number of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who were wearing red "Make America Great Again" hats during a trip to the Mall when they encountered Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist. News accounts, including in The Post, and videos of their encounter sparked a heated national debate over the behavior of the participants. The Sandmanns' lead attorney is L. Lin Wood, who represented Richard Jewell, the security guard falsely accused in the bombing of Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996. He also represented John and Patsy Ramsey in pursuing defamation claims against media outlets in connection with reports on the death of their young daughter, JonBenet.
Ole Miss police advise people to avoid weekend rallies
The Ole Miss police chief asked people on Monday to stay away from areas of campus this weekend where rallies will be taking place in support of Confederate symbols. The letter was sent to Ole Miss faculty, staff and students. This comes after it was discovered a group out of Memphis called Confederate 901 plan to hold a march that will begin at the Square at 1 p.m. and conclude at the Circle on the Ole Miss campus around 2 p.m. The rally is schedule to last until 5 p.m. on Saturday. "Our highest priority is to maintain a safe campus environment, and the University Police Department has worked with local and state law enforcement agencies in preparation for these events,"the statement from UPD chief Ray Hawkins read. The university is holding a Community Conversation on Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Union Ballroom regarding this weekend's planned events. Speakers who will be in attendance at the conversation include Dr. Brandi Hephner LeBlanc, vice chancellor for student affairs; Dr. Neal Hutchens, chair and professor of higher education in the School of Education; UPD police chief Ray Hawkins and Dr. Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.
Protesting the protest: UM students, administration respond
Students and community members have organized a counterprotest against the rally planned by Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen. The counterprotest's leader plans for the march to be just as large as the pro-Confederate protest on Saturday. Will Pipes, the organizer of the counterprotest and a senior marketing major, said the counterprotest will occur in the Circle on campus from 2:30 until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. "I understand the ideal of 'Don't give them a reaction. Don't give them the attention. Don't give them the satisfaction.' But I think, after a point, (the neo-Confederate groups) are doing this not necessarily to get a reaction or to get a rise out of people," Pipes said. "They're doing this because they feel safe." There are currently 59 people marked as planning to attend the counterprotest on the event's Facebook page and 195 marked as interested in attending. There are 89 people marked as planning to attend the Confederate 901 protest and 352 marked as interested. Other student organizations have scheduled similar events ahead of both the neo-Confederate rally and the counterprotest on Saturday.
Students Against Social Injustice moves weekend conference to Memphis, plans campus protest for Friday
Circumstances surrounding the relocation of Students Against Social Injustice's "United Students Against Sweatshops" national conference have shifted considerably in the last week. SASI officers initially planned to host a conference at the Jackson Avenue Center this weekend in coordination with the national group USAS, at which attendees would "build organizing skills, connect with student organizers and workers and support (their) campaign against confederate iconography," according to SASI. Student officers originally said the conference was being moved because of disagreements with the University of Mississippi's "limitations" on the event, but university officials later said SASI officers did not file the proper paperwork in time to adhere to university policies. Erica McKinley, chief legal officer and general counsel to the university, disputed SASI's claims on Tuesday. She said she had neither heard of nor received any documents regarding SASI's conference until Feb. 1.
Southern Miss removes Alabama editor from Hall of Fame after KKK remarks
The University of Southern Mississippi's journalism department has removed an Alabama newspaper editor from its Hall of Fame after news broke he wrote an editorial calling for the return of the Ku Klux Klan and lynching. Goodloe Sutton, the publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama, told the Montgomery Advertiser Monday he authored the Feb. 14 editorial. Linden is about 60 miles east of Meridian. This is the statement that was posted on USM's School of Mass Communication Journalism's web page Tuesday: "Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton's call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Sutton's subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments. ... In light of Mr. Sutton's recent and continued history of racist remarks, however, the School of Communication has removed his place in our Hall of Fame."
Alabama newspaper editor stripped of honor after calling for KKK to 'clean out DC'
An Alabama newspaper editor on Tuesday was removed from the University of Southern Mississippi's journalism Hall of Fame for writing an editorial that called for the Ku Klux Klan to "ride again" to block tax increases. Goodloe Sutton, the publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Ala., was stripped of the honor over the "misguided and dangerous nature of his comments." "The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton's remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication," the school wrote on its website. Sutton was inducted into the honorary group in 2007 based on his anti-corruption articles in the 1990s which earned him and his wife, Jean, recognition.
JSU students receive crime alert about armed and dangerous man seen on campus
Jackson State University students and staff have been asked to notify campus police immediately if they see Patrick A. Brookshire. He is considered armed and dangerous. According to an alert that was sent to students, he has been seen on the campus several times over the last few days. He is wanted for multiple felony charges, including aggravated assault and auto-theft. According to the Maxine Greenleaf, executive director of communications and marketing, a portion of the campus was previously on lockdown. It has been lifted at this time.
Sherry Overby to lead human resources at Belhaven
Sherry Overby '04 was named the new Belhaven University Director of Human Resources and will bring over 15 years of insight and experience to the department. As an alumna and adjunct professor in the business program, she has a long history with the University. In 2004, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Management at Belhaven. She continued her studies with the University and later obtained a Master of Science in Leadership in 2012. For 15 years, she worked at Community Bank as the vice president of human resources. Overby is a member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the Mississippi Chapter's Association for Talent Development (ATD), where she served as the 2018 president, and continues on the board as the 2019 past president. Overby is also an instructor for Belhaven BEST, a partnership between Belhaven University and Families First for Mississippi.
Teacher shortages force districts to use online education programs
On most afternoons, Jeremiah Smith, founder of an after-school and summer program called the Rosedale Freedom Project, can be found sitting side-by-side with his students as they peer at laptops, trying to get through their assignments. Posters with uplifting quotes by Henry David Thoreau, Maya Angelou and Mahatma Gandhi decorate the room, but sometimes those positive messages aren't enough: Smith can spot the exact moment when his students begin to despair. The teenagers attend high schools and middle schools in the lowest-scoring school district in the state of Mississippi, West Bolivar Consolidated. Smith can also pinpoint one of the main reasons for his students' frustration: "The problem is the program." The program he's referring to is an online learning platform, Edgenuity. An increasing number of school districts, including West Bolivar, have turned to Edgenuity and programs like it as they face a critical shortage of certified teachers.
Alabama colleges to report outcomes, earnings for graduates
With college costs continuing to rise year over year, it's becoming more important to be a savvy shopper. And pretty soon, that's going to be a lot easier, at least for colleges and universities in Alabama. Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, on Tuesday released a first look at the wide range of measures soon to be made publicly available about outcomes for students attending Alabama's institutions of higher education. "Taxpayers send over $1.1 billion to Alabama universities every year," Marsh told through a spokesperson, "and it is important that taxpayers know that their money is being spent wisely and in a responsible manner." According to information shared at a recent Alabama Commission on Higher Education meeting, the median amount paid annually by an undergraduate resident of Alabama in tuition and fees attending a four-year public university has risen from $6,185 in 2009-10 to $10,707 in 2018-19, a 73 percent increase. Seventeen of the 19 members of the Alabama Council of College and University Presidents voted to accept the framework, while two, Auburn University and Auburn University at Montgomery, did not reply by the deadline.
Former DKE fraternity director: 'I knew from the very beginning ... that LSU was a problem'
The former longtime executive director of the national Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity says the national organization has known for at least 30 years that LSU's chapter had severe problems and that those meant to supervise the fraternity within LSU knew of problems as well. After nine members of the fraternity's LSU chapter were arrested last week amid allegations they beat pledges with pipes, urinated on them, doused them in gasoline and more, questions have simmered about whether university administrators knew about problems at DKE but allowed the fraternity to continue operating. LSU President F. King Alexander announced late last week he had placed multiple administrators on leave after receiving an allegation that they had not responded appropriately to rumors about DKE. In an interview with The Advocate, David Easlick, who was the executive director of the national DKE fraternity from 1989 to 2009, said LSU's DKE chapter was at constant risk of being booted off campus by the university during his tenure. Easlick now often testifies as an expert witness in hazing cases nationwide.
Proposal to keep South Carolina tuition costs down is one step closer to becoming law
The most ambitious proposal in decades to overhaul higher education funding in South Carolina is one step closer to becoming law. The Senate Finance Committee voted 17-4 during a Tuesday meeting to send the Opportunity Act (previously known as the Higher Education Opportunity Act) to the Senate floor for a vote. At its core, the act would boost higher education funding through a $125 million trust fund for in-state students in exchange for a one-year tuition freeze and a 2.75 percent limit on tuition raises after that. The bill, which would be funded through the general fund and internet sales tax revenue, would also shift money from the state's merit-based scholarships to its underfunded need-based scholarship program. "The effect of this bill will be to leave money in parents' pockets," said bill sponsor Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw. "This moves higher education and colleges to the top of the issues we're going to discuss this year." "We're grateful to the members of the committee for supporting this bi-partisan bill," University of South Carolina spokesman Jeff Stensland said in a text message. "It's a big step toward making college more affordable and accessible for South Carolina students."
U. of Missouri creates new Department of Public Health
A new academic department at the University of Missouri shared by the School of Health Professions and the College of Veterinary Medicine is the Department of Public Health. It will be the home of the interdisciplinary master of Public Health Program and create the academic infrastructure required to advance public health education and research at the university. Latha Ramchand, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, provided the information in a campus-wide email. The Department of Public Health is an essential step in advancing the university's standing in the Association of American Universities and extending precision medicine to Missouri residents, she wrote.
Democrats Say Trump Official Pressured IG to Drop Investigation
Congressional Democrats said Tuesday that a top Education Department official attempted to influence an investigation by its inspector general into the reinstatement of a troubled for-profit college accreditor. The Democrats told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a letter Tuesday that they "have become increasingly concerned by the department's efforts to influence the independence of the OIG and that office's critical work." The department announced abruptly last month that it would replace acting inspector general Sandra Bruce with Deputy General Counsel Philip Rosenfelt, a longtime Education Department official. After critics in Congress raised questions about the new pick, the White House reversed the decision. But Democrats said they would continue to look into the decision. And in the letter to DeVos, five senior Democratic lawmakers say correspondence between Bruce and Deputy Secretary Mick Zais show "troubling efforts" to influence the independence of the inspector general -- conclusions a department spokeswoman rejected as politically motivated.
Employers team up with higher education to bring open data and standardization to hiring
A wide range of employers have complained for years that higher education is failing to adequately prepare students to join the work force. However, a growing number of businesses are owning some of the blame for the disconnect between college and jobs. Employers too often send the wrong signals about the skills their workers need, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Center for Education and the Workforce. That lack of clarity causes problems for job seekers as well as employers and postsecondary education providers. "Everybody writes job listings in their own language," said Kemi Jona, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the Northeastern University's College of Professional Studies. The result, he said, is a "big mess that nobody can understand." To help create a more coherent jobs marketplace, the center brought together a group of more than 150 colleges, foundations, HR groups, associations, technical standards organizations and major employers, including Salesforce, Google, IBM, LinkedIn and the U.S. Navy. Walmart and the Lumina Foundation are helping to fund the group, which is dubbed the T3 Innovation Network.
Mega-Universities Are On the Rise. They Could Reshape Higher Ed as We Know It.
Paul J. LeBlanc remembers the day, about a decade ago, when a public research university in New England announced that it was starting an online M.B.A. Southern New Hampshire University, where LeBlanc is president, had just rolled out its own ambitious online program and started its rise from undistinguished private institution with a few thousand students to today's online-education juggernaut with more than 92,000 undergraduates enrolled. LeBlanc found the prospect of such an august competitor bracing -- until he heard a radio ad touting the new program. The ad suggested that those interested in the program come to an open house. "You have an online program, but people have to go to your campus to get information and register?" he asks, still sounding incredulous. And, sure enough, "They've never been competition." At a time when many colleges are struggling with shrinking enrollment and tighter budgets, Southern New Hampshire is thriving on a grand scale, and it's not alone. Liberty, Grand Canyon, and Western Governors Universities, along with a few other nonprofit institutions, have built huge online enrollments and national brands in recent years by subverting many of traditional higher education's hallmarks.
Students multitask (on things unrelated to course work) more in online settings, study finds
Andrew Lepp wasn't surprised -- and wouldn't expect most people familiar with higher education to be surprised -- by the headline finding of a study he and several colleagues published last week: that students in online courses said they engaged in more noneducational multitasking than did their peers in in-person courses. "I would have bet anything that students would have multitasked more in online courses," said Lepp, a professor of recreation, park and tourism management at Kent State University. "In that way this study just confirmed what's obvious." But "where it gets interesting," Lepp said of the study he and his colleagues published this month in Sage Open, is in the finding that students who were deemed to have similar levels of inclination to multitask were much less likely to do so in face-to-face classes than in online courses. What that suggests, Lepp said, is that something about in-person courses constrains students from engaging in the texting, web shopping and other behaviors that are widely shown as impeding learning.
UCF President Dale Whittaker offers to resign amid controversy over misspent millions
One week after vowing to stay in his post, UCF President Dale Whittaker bowed Tuesday to intense pressure and offered to resign amid investigations into the misappropriation of nearly $85 million for construction projects. Whittaker, less than eight months into his tenure, is being forced out by a scandal involving the misuse of state funds that has drawn rebuke from the Legislature and the Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. He has maintained he didn't know leftover operating funds couldn't be used on new buildings. In a letter to University of Central Florida trustees on Tuesday announcing he would resign, Whittaker said one of his goals was to "repair and restore the public's full trust in UCF." Whittaker has received an annual base pay of $506,000 as the university's president. His tenure has been the shortest of the university's five presidents.
Waller's entry into 2019 governor's race reshuffles the political deck -- perhaps
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: As noted last fall in a previous column, the 2003 election cycle saw Mississippi voters make some interesting choices in terms of the 2019 election cycle in our state. In that 2003 general election, Republican Haley Barbour unseated incumbent Gov. Musgrove by taking 52.6 percent of the vote (470,404) to 45.8 percent (409,787) for Musgrove. Down that same ballot, GOP nominee Tate Reeves won election as the first Republican state treasurer, and Democrat Jim Hood won election to his first term as attorney general. A year later in 2004, Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. took 72 percent of the vote or 243,603 votes in his re-election bid. Now, the expected highly-partisan 2019 Mississippi gubernatorial battle between incumbent GOP Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and incumbent Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood has been joined by Waller, who after running in non-partisan judicial elections says he will run for governor as a Republican. The immediate reaction across the state was that Waller's bombshell announcement reshuffles the political deck. But does it? Perhaps.

Mississippi State seeks third straight win at Georgia
The last time Ben Howland and Tom Crean matched wits was on March 27, 2003 in the Sweet 16. Howland was the coach at Pittsburgh at the time and Crean at Marquette. Tonight those two will meet again as Howland brings his Mississippi State team to Stegeman Coliseum to take on Crean in his first season coaching at Georgia. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on the SEC Network. Howland is hoping for a better result than his previous matchup with Crean. Marquette, led by Dwyane Wade, edged out Howland and Pitt, 77-74. Wade scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, including a crucial layup with 25 seconds remaining. "He's a hell of a coach," Howland said of Crean. "He did a great job at Marquette as well as at Indiana. "He's obviously an outstanding hire in a conference that has so many coaches now." Likewise, Crean has a high amount of praise for Howland.
Mississippi State welcomes back former Bulldogs today
No. 14 Mississippi State celebrated legendary coach Ron Polk this past weekend with the opening of the new Dudy Noble Field/Polk-DeMent Stadium. Today, Polk returns as a volunteer assistant coach with UAB, as the Blazers visit the Bulldogs for a 4 p.m. first pitch. However, Polk won't be the only former Diamond Dog suiting up for the Blazers today. UAB head coach Brian Shoop was an assistant under Polk in Starkville from 1983-89 and pitcher Graham Ashcraft is now with the Blazers after appearing in 10 games for MSU in 2017 but missed all of last season after hip surgery. Now a redshirt sophomore, Ashcraft (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is scheduled to start today's game opposed by State senior right-hander Peyton Plumlee (0-0, 4.50).
Can Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan repeat as nation's top defender?
Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan is well on her way to winning the Naismith Women's Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. McCowan was selected as a semifinalist for the honor on Tuesday after earning the honor in its inaugural year in 2017-18. The senior center from Brenham, Texas is currently second in the country with 13.6 rebounds per game and is averaging a career-best 2.6 blocks. McCowan has the third-most rebounds of any active player with 1,354. McCowan is one of only two SEC players picked among the 10 semifinalists along with Kentucky's Taylor Murray.
Joni Taylor welcomes daughter morning after Lady Dogs defeat Ole Miss
There's a new player on Team Taylor. Georgia women's basketball coach Joni Taylor, her husband Darius and their daughter Jacie welcomed Drew Simone Taylor to the family at 7:29 a.m. Tuesday. The newborn is listed on the roster as being 20 inches long and weighing in at 6 pounds, 8 ounces. According to a release from the Georgia athletic department, mother and daughter are resting well. "Darius and I feel so blessed to be the parents of such a sweet little girl, and I know Jacie is thrilled to be a big sister," Taylor said in the release. Taylor gave birth Tuesday morning less than 12 hours after the Lady Bulldogs defeated Ole Miss 78-56 at Stegeman Coliseum. Associate head coach Karen Lange will assume head coaching duties while Taylor is away, and plans for Taylor's return to the Georgia bench will be shared at a later date.
U. of Memphis files $8.8 million permit for indoor football practice facility
The University of Memphis filed an $8.8 million building permit for construction of its long-in-the-works indoor football practice facility on Monday. The permit, which was filed along with Turner Construction Company, is one of the final hurdles in building the facility, which has been in development since fundraising began in 2011. The practice facility is part of Phase II of the indoor facility project, which began after a groundbreaking ceremony in April 2017. Phase II will begin after the completion of Phase I in April, according to Memphis President David Rudd. The first phase began last summer and featured renovations to the Billy J. Murphy Athletic Complex, including new coaches' offices, a new training facility, player dining and study areas as well as new water therapy and work spaces. In August 2017, the university's Board of Trustees approved $10 million in debt financing for the facility project from the Tennessee State School Bond Authority to begin Phase I. The total cost of the project is $10.6 million.

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