Monday, January 13, 2020   
Bully's Closet and Pantry aims to meet several needs at Mississippi State
Deshaun Hackett didn't want to take the last carton of milk from the refrigerator, but Harmony Clarke insisted. "We're going to get more on Monday," Clarke said. "You're fine." All the milk was gone by Friday evening at Bully's Closet and Pantry, a one-stop shop for food, professional clothing, school supplies and hygiene products for Mississippi State University students. It opened with a ribbon-cutting Friday morning and started distributing supplies that afternoon. About 30 percent of college students nationwide struggle with food insecurity, so BCP will serve as "one more layer of support" for those students, MSU Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt told The Dispatch. MSU President Mark Keenum had three words for Hyatt when she approached him with the idea for BCP: "Make it happen." "When we think about people who are in need of food, we tend to think about people in far-off, distant lands, but we have people in need right here in our own community, right here on our campus," Keenum told a crowd of about 50 at Friday's press conference.
Bully's Closet and Pantry opens for Mississippi State students in need
Mississippi State University students facing food insecurity issues now have a new resource on campus. On Friday morning, the new Bully's Closet and Pantry opened its doors with a ceremony. The facility is located at 120 Morgan Ave. on campus and offers food for MSU students in need. Items available include canned goods, dry pasta and other nonperishables as well as MSU milk and eggs. Some frozen foods will also be available. In the closet side of the facility, students will be offered business and formal clothing for presentations, job interviews and similar events. Bully's Closet and Pantry is a joint project between the MSU Student Association and the office of the MSU Dean of Students. "It's such an exciting day to finally be opening for students to come and use the services, so we're just really excited," said Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt.
Bully's Closet & Pantry officially open at Mississippi State
The Bully's Closet and Pantry is officially open on Mississippi State's campus. A ribbon cutting was held Friday morning to celebrate the new food pantry for students. Recent research from Temple University shows that almost 36% of college students don't have enough to eat. Bully's Closet and Pantry though, is right on campus there to lend a hand. "We have students who struggle and some students notice and some do not, so we really have to think about how we can be a community of concern and we can make sure we are taking care of each other whether that be from a good perspective, from homelessness, or even just from the perspectives available for educators," said Montelleo Hobley.
Bully's Closet and Pantry fights against food insecurity
The cost of college education hits many students in their wallets and for some, clothing and food can get pushed aside. To help, two organizations at Mississippi State University came together to open Bully's Closet and Pantry. Student Affairs and the Student Association partnered to open Bully's Closet and Pantry on Friday. Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said this is a resource for students to eat nutritious foods and get professional clothing for special occasions. Bully's Closet and Pantry is located at 120 Morgan Road. The hours of operation are Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 1-6 p.m.
Lyceum Series brings Disney magic, Broadway dazzle to MSU with Voctave
An a cappella ensemble known for its harmonious covers of Disney, Broadway and holiday hits will take the stage Jan. 23 to continue Mississippi State's Lyceum Series. Voctave will perform selections from its 2017 album "The Corner of Broadway and Main Street" at 7 p.m. in Lee Hall's Bettersworth Auditorium. The work features medleys of Disney classics such as "Beauty and the Beast" and adaptations of Broadway tunes such as "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables." Formed in Central Florida in 2015, the 11-member group has common roots with Walt Disney Entertainment's Voices of Liberty, an a cappella ensemble at Walt Disney World's Epcot attraction. Individual tickets are available to the general public at $30 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under, and free for MSU students with a valid MSU ID. Purchases can be made at and at the door, if available.
MSU Vet Camp applications available starting Jan. 28
Mississippi State's College of Veterinary Medicine will accept applications beginning Jan. 28 for its 10th annual Veterinary Camp. Applications will be available via the "Application" tab at The submission deadline is noon on Feb. 28. Modeled after the first- and second-year MSU CVM student experience, the camp gives students ages 10-17 an opportunity to explore the world of veterinary medicine under the guidance of faculty and current Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students. Through interactive labs and other hands-on activities, campers gain insight into a variety of career options, from small to large animal, public health to pathology, and research to pet health.
MHC Acclaimed poet Natasha Trethewey to be honored at 2020 Public Humanities Awards
The Mississippi Humanities Council has announced recipients for its 2020 Public Humanities Awards, which recognize outstanding work by Mississippians in bringing the insights of the humanities to public audiences. These recipients will be honored at a public ceremony and reception Friday evening, March 27, at the Old Capitol Museum. Former Mississippi and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey will receive the Cora Norman Award in recognition of her distinguished career as a poet and writer. In addition to honoring Trethewey, the MHC will also recognize: Humanities Scholar Award to Dr. James Giesen, associate professor of history at Mississippi State University, for his work as the official scholar for the Mississippi tour of the Smithsonian Institution exhibit, "Waterways."
Saving history: Starkville couple turns antebellum home into B&B
When Jennifer and Lee Carson were architecture majors at Mississippi State University in the early 1990s, they were intrigued by the old Montgomery place on Old West Point Road in Starkville. Not long after they graduated in 1996, the antebellum house came up for sale and they made an offer on it with the hopes of turning it into a bed and breakfast. n March 2019, the house came available again. This time, the Carsons were able to buy it and turn it into The Montgomery B&B. "For general living purposes, the house was in excellent shape," she said. "But to make it work as a bed and breakfast, we had to add bathrooms, a sprinkler system, a security system and we had to redo the stairway." The home was built around 1837 by David Montgomery, a prominent planter and a member of the state Legislature. Members of the Montgomery family lived in the home until 1999, when Judge William Eshee and his wife, Judy, bought it. They lived there for 20 years before selling it to the Carsons last year.
Both parties in new Mississippi Senate leadership roles
Mississippi's new Republican lieutenant governor is putting together a bipartisan leadership team in the state Senate for the new four-year term. Delbert Hosemann was inaugurated to the state's second-highest office Thursday and announced committees of the 52-member Senate on Friday. He told senators to spend the weekend thinking about their priorities and to return to the Capitol next week ready to work. Before revealing his committee list, Hosemann told them: "It will drive a lot of our work -- most of your work -- for the next four years." Hosemann named Republicans to lead the two money committees. Sen. Briggs Hopson of Vicksburg is the new chairman of the Appropriations Committee, which handles budgets. Sen. Josh Harkins of Flowood is the new chairman of the Finance Committee, which handles taxes and borrowing. Hosemann chose Democratic Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory as chairman of the Public Health Committee, another of the top-tier assignments.
Delbert Hosemann makes committee assignments, including some Democrats in key spots
Republican Delbert Hosemann, on his first day graveling the Senate into session as lieutenant governor, announced committee assignments Friday morning. While it is difficult in the 52-member Senate to not have some chairs from the minority Democratic Party because of the large number of committees, Hosemann still had some surprising appointments. For instance, Hob Bryan, an Amory Democrat, will chair the Public Health Committee, which is generally considered one of the five most important committees in the chamber. "What you saw announced today is my very best efforts at putting everybody where they would best serve the state," Hosemann said. "Hopefully that is in conjunction with where they want to be." Of course, Republicans, who hold a commanding 36-16 advantage in the Senate, received most of the plum assignments, including as chairs of the two money committees. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, generally viewed as a moderate, will chair Appropriations while Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, will chair the Senate Finance Committee -- replacing Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, who is the new chair of Highways and Transportation.
Analysis: Delbert Hosemann delves into role as lieutenant governor
Mississippi's new Republican lieutenant governor, Delbert Hosemann, has a reputation for working hard and expecting others around him to do the same. Hosemann was an attorney in private practice before he served three terms as secretary of state. He moved from that job to lieutenant governor on Thursday when he was inaugurated to succeed Republican Tate Reeves, the man who is becoming governor on Tuesday. In remarks to the House and Senate immediately after his inauguration Thursday, Hosemann received some applause when he said mentioned that he had gone to see the situation at Parchman. Hosemann also said he wants the Legislature to consider pay raises for teachers and state employees and to consider ways to help private businesses thrive and to make health care more accessible and affordable.
Phil Bryant: Mississippi improved in 8 years of governorship
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is leaving office Tuesday after serving his limit of two terms. The Republican said he believes the state's economy is stronger, vulnerable children are better protected and students are showing stronger academic performance. "We still have a lot of problems, but the indicators of how the economy of jobs and education and what we're doing with foster children -- they're better than they were eight years ago," Bryant said. "And that's all any governor can truly hope for, is to is to be able to say, 'Are we leaving Mississippi better off than it was eight years ago?'" In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Bryant also said a recent outburst of violence in Mississippi prisons is not something he would have wanted as part of his legacy. "This is one of the last problems that I will deal with. and we will fix it," Bryant, 65, said in his Capitol office.
Sen. Sally Doty on prisons: 'It's a safety issue'
A state senator from Brookhaven expects lawmakers will put more money toward the state's ailing prison system before the final FY 2021 budget is approved even as prisoners are revolting, and worse, dying at the hands of other inmates. As part of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, was on the team that doles out recommendations for state agencies. The committee, which met in length at the end of 2019, tentatively set a budget of $332.5 million for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, which is a reduction of $8.35 million or 2.45 percent. "This figure comes from guidelines used at all agencies and is just a starting point to begin budget negotiations in the session," she said Friday. "Over $600 million is unallocated and will go for budget priorities as determined by the Legislature. I expect the Corrections budget to see an increase as we move through the session."
Mississippi will have Democratic primary for US Senate
Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy is aiming for a rematch of a U.S. Senate race that he lost to Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi in 2018, in hopes of reversing the outcome. To compete with her in November, he will first have to push past two candidates in the Democratic primary. Friday was the deadline for candidates to qualify for Mississippi's March 10 primaries for U.S. House and Senate. Nobody filed to challenge Hyde-Smith in the Republican primary, so she moves straight to the Nov. 3 general election ballot. She's running as a steadfast supporter of President Donald Trump, who came to Mississippi to campaign for her last time. Federal Election Commission documents show Espy raised nearly $100,000 through Sept. 30 and had $131,000 on hand, while Hyde-Smith raised more than $983,000 and had $583,000 on hand.
Tobey Bartee, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, will challenge Mike Espy in Democratic primary
Tobey Bartee, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for the U.S. Senate, will run against Mike Espy in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. Bartee, a former Navy intelligence officer and State Department consultant, told Mississippi Today he would file the paperwork with the Democratic Party on Friday morning. Bartee and Espy will face each other in the March 10 Democratic primary. "There's a lot of work that has to be done, and I want to continue having the conversation about how to get it done," Bartee said in a phone call on Friday morning. Bartee ran for public office for the first time in the special 2018 Senate race, earning 1.5 percent of the vote and coming in fourth of four candidates. He was overshadowed by three candidates -- Espy, Hyde-Smith and arch-conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel -- with large war chests and big name identification.
As remote work rises at U.S. companies, Trump is calling federal employees back to the office
About a quarter of workers at U.S. companies now dial into meetings, consult with clients and do a multitude of other tasks from their laptops at home, as employers seek to cut real estate costs and keep their staffs content in a red-hot job market. The federal government, though, is calling its employees back to the office. After a big push toward telework in the Obama administration, President Trump's government is scaling it back at multiple agencies on the theory that a fanny in the seat prevents the kind of slacking off that can happen when no one's watching. The about-face began at the Agriculture Department in 2018, after Secretary Sonny Perdue was angry to discover that an employee he needed to meet with was working from home, according to three administration officials. In response, he slashed by half a robust program used by tens of thousands of employees. Trump's war on telework represents a milestone in how his administration is changing the culture of the federal government as it seeks more accountability from employees -- and moves to weaken their unions.
President Scott Alsobrooks gives EMCC update
The West Point Rotary Club got an update on the current state of East Mississippi Community College Thursday, when EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks addressed the club. Alsobrooks discussed the college's current course, including ongoing financial and enrollment difficulties. He also discussed the college's new $43 million Communiversity facility in Lowndes County. He also discussed potential future EMCC programs and the benefits of a community college education. Alsobrooks is a native of Picayune, and has led EMCC since early 2019. He served as vice president of community and economic development at Pearl River Community College prior to being hired to lead EMCC. Alsobrooks holds a bachelor's in industrial engineering from Mississippi State University and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi.
LSU vs. Clemson in the classroom: There's a crystal clear winner in that matchup
Although LSU is a slight favorite to defeat Clemson University on the football field Monday night, Clemson enjoys a wide lead in the classroom after a decade of crippling budget cuts to higher education in Louisiana. Whether it is the annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report, spending per student, student/teacher ratios, graduation rates or admissions selectivity, Clemson fares better than LSU. But LSU is older, less expensive, has more students, is more diverse and graduates students with less debt than those who earn degrees at the South Carolina school. School leaders and students in Baton Rouge are just as passionate as ever about their love for the purple and gold, especially with a football team flirting with the label "best there ever was." But 16 budget cuts over a decade -- state aid was cut by nearly 50% -- gets most of the blame for why U.S. News ranks Clemson No. 70 and LSU No. 153, or why The Wall Street Journal puts Clemson at No. 188 and LSU at No. 295. By contrast, Jim Clements, president of Clemson University, said his school has been the beneficiary of regular funding hikes during his seven years at the helm.
Auburn University president lays out new priorities
Jay Gogue entered the new year in a familiar spot: running his alma mater. Gogue ran Auburn University from 2007-17, then stepped back into his old job in July 2019 when his successor Steven Leath resigned under criticism for his job performance at Auburn. "This is where we (Gogue and his wife, Susie) will retire, and I have continued to teach class every year, so I was planning to be back this fall to actually teach -- I teach a course over in the College of Education," Gogue explained. "I was out in Arizona trying to river fish and got a phone call from the board chair (Wayne Smith) just saying that they were going to make a change here and would I be willing to come back for a while, and I said, 'Sure.'" The unretired administrator recently sat down with the Opelika-Auburn News to discuss what he plans to do this time around.
President Caslen's top staff veterans or have military connections. Is that good for U. of South Carolina?
With the latest hires at the University of South Carolina's top staff positions, President Robert Caslen's inner circle comprises veterans or others connected to the military. The staffing drew praise from pro veterans groups, but did little to assuage faculty concerns that Caslen does not have the proper experience in a research-focused university like USC. Caslen's newly named chief of staff, Mark Bieger, is an Iraq War veteran. One of his top advisors, former S.C. Representative and gubernatorial candidate James Smith, was deployed to Afghanistan. And one of his top deputies, USC professor Susan Bon, taught ROTC instructors how to be educators and served as faculty representative on the Veterans Student Services Advisory Council. "President Caslen values the service and sacrifice of military veterans, and understands that military service often builds character and leadership skills," USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said in a statement. "That said, military service is not in any way a prerequisite for employment at the university and candidates are evaluated individually on a full range of qualifications."
UGA researcher gets $1.9M from NIH to study blood-brain barrier
Yao Yao, assistant professor in the department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences at the University of Georgia's College of Pharmacy, has been awarded a $1.9 million National Institutes of Health research grant to find new treatments for stroke and other diseases involving the blood brain barrier, a complex structure that determines what enters and exits the brain. Specifically, the blood brain-barrier permits the passage of essential molecules, such as oxygen, while keeping harmful molecules out. This barrier helps maintain the entire central nervous system, and when it breaks down, the results can be catastrophic. The research group is especially interested in the role that the protein laminin plays in forming and maintaining the blood-brain barrier. Laminin binds organs and tissues together in the body and is a crucial component of the blood-brain barrier.
Vanderbilt to host John Bolton, Anderson Cooper, others for spring lecture series
Vanderbilt University will host lectures this spring with actress and activist America Ferrera, former national security advisers John Bolton and Susan Rice, and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. The talks are part of the Chancellor's Lecture Series, which focuses on conversations about the increasingly connected global community. "The spring lineup of speakers is a reflection of our continued commitment to engage new ideas, open our minds and wrestle with topics that have an impact locally and globally," Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente said in a university release. Each event is free. The university will also co-host lectures by Grammy-nominated singer Janelle Monáe and author and Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam on Jan. 19 and former U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy on May 7.
Texas A&M professors expand on US 'grand strategy' opinion piece
Two Texas A&M professors wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times last week that calls for United States officials to put together a cohesive and clear foreign policy "grand strategy" as the world enters a new decade. Kimberly Field, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who works as the executive director of the Albritton Center for Grand Strategy at the Bush School, and Texas A&M history professor Elizabeth Cobbs co-wrote an essay titled "Why Did the U.S. Kill Suleimani?" that appeared on the Times website Tuesday. In it, the scholars begin by noting that the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani (as his name is often alternately spelled) raised questions from some people across the political spectrum as to how the action "fits into America's overall interests -- in other words, our grand strategy." Moving forward, Field and Cobbs propose three potential grand strategies that they believe could guide U.S. presidents and help the American people understand their government's foreign policy trajectory.
U. of Missouri faculty member dies on student trip to Thailand
A University of Missouri faculty member died Friday while in Thailand advising students on a school-sponsored trip to study coral reefs and biodiversity. Wayne McDaniel, associate director of the Office of Technology Management and Industry Relations, was traveling with 15 students and two faculty and staff advisors when he died, MU spokesman Christian Basi said. The cause of death was uncertain Friday evening, Basi said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, and we're doing anything we can to support them during this very difficult time," Basi said. "Wayne is a longtime employee of the university and he was known by many faculty and staff. He'll be missed." The students are participating in a winter-break study program offered by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
MLA discusses professors' ethical responsibilities for training graduate students
The humanities' dismal tenure-track job market has laid bare some of the profession's other ugly truths -- namely that power imbalances are too often used against graduate students. The Me Too movement has, of course, revealed abuses of a sexual nature in academe. Yet graduate students also increasingly refuse to accept other forms of mistreatment and malpractice as they face poor faculty job prospects. Put another way, if the status quo isn't a means to an end, then graduate students want graduate school to be more of an end in itself -- and an equitable one. The Modern Language Association is listening. A fair number of the 700-plus sessions offered at its annual convention over the weekend centered on improving graduate education, not just structurally but culturally. And a large share of the association's Delegate Assembly meeting focused on a new report from the MLA's Task Force in Ethical Conduct on Graduate Education.
Florida lawmakers launch investigation into 'foreign meddling' at state research universities
Florida lawmakers are launching an investigation into the "extent of foreign meddling in taxpayer-funded research" at the state's research institutions, in what seems to be the first inquiry of this sort at a state level. The state-level probe is happening in parallel with similar inquiries by Congress and national research agencies into the threat of intellectual property theft by foreign actors. Florida's House Speaker, José R. Oliva, a Republican, announced a new committee that would lead the investigation in December. He cited in his announcement "recent revelations" regarding the freestanding Moffitt Cancer Center. Moffitt said it launched its review into researchers' ties with China after the National Institutes of Health warned of efforts by foreign actors to influence or compromise U.S. researchers. "We don't want to be in a position where the Florida taxpayer is inadvertently subsidizing research and development for a foreign country," said Chris Sprowls, the Speaker-designate and the chair of the bipartisan committee, which holds its first hearing later this month. Most taxpayer-funded research dollars flowing into universities come from the federal government, but Sprowls argued that states have an important oversight role.
New MIT Report Details University's Deeper Relationship With Jeffrey Epstein
Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who reportedly committed suicide in jail last year while facing further charges that he had trafficked and sexually abused young girls, had a closer relationship with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology than was previously public, according to a 61-page report released on Friday by the university. Epstein visited MIT's campus nine times, the report says, from 2013 to 2017 -- well after his 2008 conviction. He donated a total of $850,000 to MIT over a 15-year period, including $525,000 to its Media Lab and $225,000 to Seth Lloyd, a tenured mechanical-engineering professor. MIT put Lloyd on paid administrative leave on Friday, and Joi Ito resigned in September as director of the Media Lab after a New Yorker article made public details about Epstein's relationship with the lab. MIT does not have a policy on accepting controversial donations, according to the report.
'Techlash' Hits College Campuses
In 2006, Google bought YouTube for more than $1 billion, Apple was preparing to announce the first iPhone, and the American housing bubble began to deflate. Claire Stapleton, then a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, faced the same question over and over: What did she plan to do with that English degree? She flirted, noncommittally, with Teach for America. Then, a Google recruiter came to campus and, Ms. Stapleton said, she "won 'American Idol.'" The company flew her out to Mountain View, Calif., which felt to her "like the promised land" -- 15 cafeterias, beach volleyball courts, Zumba classes, haircuts and laundry on-site. But for Ms. Stapleton, now 34, the real appeal in a job at Google was what seemed to be a perfect balance of working for income and according to one's conscience. Naturally, she said yes to an offer in the corporate communications department. More than a decade later, college seniors and recent graduates looking for jobs that are both principled and high-paying are doing so in a world that has soured on Big Tech. The positive perceptions of Google, Facebook and other large tech firms are crumbling.
Ignored problems don't disappear, they become crises
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Mississippi's prison crisis is about to teach new legislators a hard lesson. ... Mississippi's prison system was under federal court orders to improve deplorable conditions from 1972 to 2011. In 2011 sufficient improvements had been made for the court to end its oversight. That was the same year Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves took office. Ignoring prison needs began and continued through their terms of office. Reeves chaired the Joint Legislative Budget Committee last year. Notably, in December it recommended cutting MDOC's budget again this year. Funding prisons, of course, is not as popular as tax cuts, tax breaks for major industries, or nifty new but non-essential programs. New legislators will now learn that ignored problems don't disappear, they become crises. Today the crisis is prisons, tomorrow it will be PERS, health care, the plight of rural communities, roads and bridges, or higher education.
Prison unrest ignites debate on proper level to fund state government as Bryant leaves office
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: When Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice appointed state Rep. Phil Bryant, a Rankin County Republican, to the open seat of state auditor in 1996, he essentially said Bryant was a nicer version of himself. Bryant, collegial and folksy, contrasted with Fordice who was known for his gruffness and quick temper, though, both shared the same unabashedly conservative principles and loyalty to the Republican Party. Fordice, an instinctual politician, recognized the statewide potential of the little-known Rankin County Republican. He was right. ... Bryant, a former Hinds County deputy from a blue collar family, called the end of his tenure "bittersweet," though he said he is excited about the Republican leadership taking control of state government and of the potential of Mississippi.
Open primary initiative underway
Mississippi newspaper publisher and columnist Wyatt Emmerich writes: Back in the '80s, the Mississippi legislature passed an open primary law just like the one in Louisiana. For reasons no one understood, the U.S. Justice Department would not approve Mississippi's law but did approve Louisiana's. What is an open primary? That's when all candidates from both parties run in the same primary. If one candidate you like is a Democrat and another you like is a Republican, you can vote for both of them. That's how it now works in Louisiana, but not so in Mississippi. You have to pick one primary or the other, Republican or Democrat, so you can only vote for half the candidates. This could be one reason Mississippi tends to end up a one-party state. That's too bad. It's always better to have healthy competition, especially in something as important as government. At the moment two initiatives, Initiative 69 and 70, have been filed with the Secretary of State's office.

Mississippi State AD John Cohen confident he made the right call
Mississippi State athletics director John Cohen told Joe Moorhead on the morning of Jan. 3 that he was taking the football program in a different direction. Later that evening, Cohen reached out to the man who would eventually be the Bulldogs' next head coach -- Mike Leach. Cohen felt that he and Leach connected immediately as they chatted over the phone that night. The two met face-to-face six days later in Key West, Florida -- where Leach spends his time in the offseason -- to finalize the deal. "I'd never been there but I highly recommend it, it's a pretty nice place," Cohen said. "We had a great meeting. This guy's different in a lot of ways, in good ways. He's highly intellectual, highly talented and really a tactician." To reach his decision, Cohen certainly did his homework. He reached out to some of Leach's former players -- including current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback and Mississippi native Gardner Minshew -- as well as several sitting athletic directors who had interviewed Leach for other jobs and later regretted not hiring him.
From Starkville to Key West: How Mississippi State landed on Mike Leach
John Cohen has hundreds of pages of notes from his latest coaching search. On Friday, Jan. 3, Cohen stood in front of local media members in Starkville and told them why he, Mississippi State's athletic director, fired head coach Joe Moorhead. The next Friday, Cohen stood in front of the same media members -- and hundreds of Mississippi State fans -- inside the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex and told them why he hired Mike Leach as Moorhead's replacement. Cohen said he was pleased with the way the weeklong coaching search played out, although it may have lasted too long for anxious fans who reacted to countless reports based on anonymous sources. "I think we connected immediately and we had great, great conversations," Cohen said. The conversations were so great that Cohen twice visited Leach in Key West, which is where Leach posts up during the offseason.
Mike Leach starts Mississippi State tenure by crediting coaches before him
Seated to the right of the stage at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex Friday, the base of Mike Leach's maroon tie poked through the fastened button in the middle of his chest. Emblazoned on the freshly fitted tie, a stitched look-alike of Mississippi State's famed bulldog mascot Jak -- the real version of whom looked on just a few feet away, yanking at his leash -- peered out toward the roughly 500 gathered fans in a space that normally serves as the football team cafeteria. Following a few words from MSU Athletic Director John Cohen and President Mark Keenum, the coach known as "The Pirate" -- a moniker earned due to his intrigue with 18th-century swashbucklers -- avoided the usual parables new coaches offer on future successes and impending culture changes in his first official remarks as MSU's latest football coach. Rather, Leach referenced two former MSU coaching legends -- football coach Jackie Sherrill and longtime baseball coach Ron Polk -- as he continued his ever-growing indoctrination into Bulldog lore.
Mississippi State meets its unconventional match in Mike Leach
Midway through his introductory press conference as Mississippi State's new football coach, Mike Leach peered down from the podium at MSU's live mascot "Jak," who was getting a little rambunctious in a room filled with reporters and fans. "You don't want to get bit by him, I'll tell you that much," Leach said on Friday. "That's the dog version of like a leather jacket. That's like the Fonzie of bulldogs." It's that type of quick wit, charm and off-the-wall zaniness that has made Leach an unconventional legend within the coaching profession. But none of those are the reasons MSU athletic director John Cohen chose Leach as the program's 34th head football coach. "We hired Mike Leach because he's a disciplinarian," Cohen said. "We hired Mike Leach because he's a brilliant tactician. And most of all, we hired Mike Leach because he's a proven winner. He's won at some places where quite frankly that it's difficult to win."
How Mike Leach took Starkville by storm in his first press conference at Mississippi State
One of Mike Leach's first stops upon arriving in Starkville on Thursday afternoon was George Sherman Clothiers, one of the most popular places in town to buy formal attire. Leach was asked about his experience there. He gave more than just an answer. "What do you think of this suit?" Leach asked the crowd while spreading his arms out wide. Then he smirked, gauged the room and stepped away from the podium to give viewers a head-to-toe look at his dark gray get-up. He accented the suit with a white shirt and maroon tie. Of course, there was an MSU logo on his lapel. This time fans in the room at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex didn't just laugh; they laughed, applauded and praised their new head coach for yet another moment of comic relief in the middle of a press conference that focused mainly on why Leach chose to leave Washington State to start anew in Starkville at 58 years old. "Don't get too used to that part of it, OK?" Leach quipped once more before waiting on another question.
Mike Leach says 'pride, tradition' brought him to Starkville
Mississippi State introduced Mike Leach as their new head coach Friday afternoon. Athletic Director John Cohen listed off a number of reasons they were interested in hiring Coach Leach. "Most importantly, we hired Mike Leach because he's a proven winner," Cohen said. President Mark Keenum presented Leach with his own special cowbell. "First thing I want to say is how honored I am to work for John Cohen and also Dr. Keenum," Leach opened with. He said he's always been familiar with MSU and the pride that exists there. He says he's proud of his time with Washington State but is excited about his next chapter in Starkville.
Mike Leach introduced as Mississippi State head coach
"Do you know how to use that," said Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum at the beginning of Mike Leach's introductory press conference at the school. Leach, while holding the cowbell up that Keenum had gifted him like a game show host presenter, responded, a bit perplexed, "Uh, I hope so." And that is how the Mike Leach Era began in Starkville on Friday. "I will forever be proud, and if I'm not careful, get emotional about my time at Washington State and the opportunity to coach there because I'm very proud of that team. I'm very proud of the Cougs," said Leach during his opening statement. But, in classic pirate fashion, he also felt like he needed a new adventure. "You're always really conflicted because you create great relationships with your previous team and coaches, fans, and some things like that," Leach said. "The other side of it is you're going to be dead in a 100 years anyways so you want to try to have as many experiences as you can. Everybody's got goals and things they want to accomplish. It is kind of a path. I guess in my case, I just wanted different experiences. Although, I'll always cherish the experiences I had previously. I think that the departure is the hardest."
Mike Leach wins presser reminiscing about Mississippi State having worst visitor's locker room ever
Mike Leach had one disappointment since Thursday he was announced as the head coach at Mississippi State. The worst locker room for visiting teams in all of college football is no longer. The former Washington State coach was asked on Friday of he had a chance to stroll down memory lane and visit the Mississippi State visitors locker room. The gathered media and fans laughed at the question. That's because, not long ago, Leach was asked about the worst visitor's locker rooms and his answer was those located in Starkville. The facilities -- which have since been upgraded -- were the worst but also the best at the same time. "I wanted to go down to that old visitor's locker room," he said to laughs during the press conference. "The artistry of which I truly admire. I mean that sincerely. Maybe my taste and view on football and sports are different than others, but the old visitor's locker room at Mississippi State was literally a work of art."
Mike Leach, Lane Kiffin bring new flavor to Ole Miss, Mississippi State rivalry
Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach is taking a different approach to the Egg Bowl rivalry: He's letting the love flow. Leach spoke at his introductory press conference on Friday, launching into 35 minutes of vintage Leach-speak. From lessons on insurgency to memories of the glory of Mississippi State's old visitors' locker room, Leach proved at the podium that he's not going to be a vanilla coach who only talks Xs, Os and execution. In the middle of his performance at the podium, Leach fielded a question about his fellow newcomer in the SEC: Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. Whereas former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen refused to even refer to Ole Miss by name, Leach started off with compliments. "I've known Lane for a long time," Leach said. "I actually knew Lane when he was a [graduate assistant] for Pete Carroll. I've always liked Lane. I know that you're not supposed to like anything from Ole Miss but I've always liked him. He's an entertaining guy."
Why the aftermath of Mississippi State's hiring of Mike Leach could affect Oklahoma's Alex Grinch
While the college football world ponders the serendipity of Mike Leach in the SEC, the ripple effects might be felt in Oklahoma and the Big 12. Mississippi State's decision to hire Leach to replace Joe Morehead leaves an opening at Washington State. Speculation immediately focused on Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who served as an assistant under Leach in Pullman from 2015-17, along with other possibilities including former Leach quarterback Graham Harrell, now at USC, and Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain. Meanwhile, the SEC West -- not to mention conference media days – became a lot more interesting with the hiring of Leach. Get ready for Leach press conferences that include riffs on Bigfoot and wedding advice and zombie apocalypse preparation and a 64-team playoff proposal and a whole lot of things unrelated to football. But don't let Leach's tangents mask the fact that he can coach and craft programs and do a lot with a little.
Mike Leach adds intrigue to Texas A&M-Mississippi State matchup as well as rest of SEC West
Robert Cessna writes for The Eagle: The Southeastern Conference Football Media Days will be more entertaining now that Mississippi State has hired the quirky and extremely quotable Mike Leach. So will the Bulldogs' series with Texas A&M. Leach was 7-3 against the Aggies, including 3-2 at Kyle Field. Leach said the Game Day experience at Kyle Field is one of college football's best, and his last trip here was 2008, which was before A&M's move to the SEC and subsequent stadium expansion. It also was before A&M hired Jimbo Fisher. Leach going against Fisher will be priceless: Leach brings his Air Raid offense that has allowed him to lead the country in passing 10 times, and Fisher has a pro-style attack that's won three conference championships and a national championship.
Mississippi: Up to 40 deer tested had deadly brain disease
A deadly brain disease has been found in or is suspected in 40 Mississippi deer, and the state is asking hunters to continue providing samples through the deer season. "Deer harvest begins to tail off this time of the season. I hope we will get several hundred more before the season is over, if not a thousand or so," Russ Walsh, wildlife chief of staff for the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said Thursday. Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a highly infectious disease spread by malformed proteins called prions, like those that cause mad cow disease and the related human infection called Creutzfelt-Jacob disease. Nearly all the infected and suspected deer were in north Mississippi, including 25 killed or found in Benton County and 10 in adjacent Marshall County, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks said in a news release. Both counties border southwest Tennessee, where the disease has also been found.
As $180 million children's medical tower opening nears, PGA event makes record donation
The Sanderson Farms Championship, Mississippi's tournament on the PGA Tour, Thursday made a record $1.3 million contribution from last September's tournament to Friends of Children's Hospital at University of Mississippi Medical Center. But that might not have been the biggest news from Thursday's news conference at UMMC. UMMC and tournament officials both said they hope the opening of a new seven-story, $180 million pediatric clinic at the state's only children's hospital might coincide with the 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship, which will have new first-week-of-October dates. "We are on schedule and on budget to open the new pediatric clinic this fall," said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor. "It would be so special for the opening to coincide with the tournament that has raised so much money to make it a reality."
LSU cancels classes for national championship; make-up days are likely, school says
LSU's Board of Supervisors canceled the first and second day of classes, Monday and Tuesday, because of the College Football Playoff national championship game. Supervisor Jay Blossman, of Mandeville, made the motion verbally, it wasn't on the agenda, during a committee hearing at a Board meeting in Alexandria. He asked to cancel classes so students could participate in the "for the special event that is historical on Monday down in New Orleans." The committee approved the motion on a unanimous voice vote. The full board voted on the proposal later in the afternoon. The board of supervisors makes the final decisions for the LSU System. LSU noted the cancellation is only for the flagship Baton Rouge campus. All other LSU campuses in the state will have class as scheduled, and their academic calendars won't change.
Gamecocks post strong first week of athletic alcohol sales
The lines weren't long, but there were lines. The demand wasn't great, but there was a demand. South Carolina allowed alcohol sales in its public seating at Colonial Life Arena for the first time last week, and after two games, the results have been very positive. "I think it's great that there haven't been incidents. Aramark has been serving beer here for years at concerts, so the operation is pretty seamless," said Eric Nichols, USC's head of athletic marketing. "I think part of it is learning the patterns so we can best put the points of sale in the parts of the arena where basketball fans want to buy beer." With combined attendance (tickets sold, not actual) just under 23,000 for the two games, USC sold around 700 units of alcohol at the women's game and 1,661 units at the men's game. Total sales were a hair shy of $20,000, of which USC keeps half. The other half goes to Aramark, USC's concessions vendor.
U. of Alabama halfway to reaching athletics fundraising goal
The University of Alabama's athletics department is already at the 50-yard line in terms of reaching its $600 million fundraising goal. Greg Byrne, UA's director of athletics, said the Crimson Standard, a 10-year capital initiative, has received more than $309 million in gifts and pledges from donors since its August 2018 launch. "We are so grateful to all of our generous donors who have helped us reach this milestone," Byrne said in Jan. 9 a news release. "To have eclipsed the halfway point in less than two years since the launch of our 10-year plan speaks to the level of support for the future of Alabama Athletics and to the hard work and dedication for this initiative by our staff in the Crimson Tide Foundation." The objective of the Crimson Standard is to improve the overall game-day experience for UA fans while also bolstering the student-athlete experience and recruiting efforts.
Does Alabama or Auburn have more fans? Survey says...
Which of the state's flagship college football programs has more fans -- Alabama or Auburn? Students working with Samford University's Center for Sports Analytics have set out to answer that question last semester and designed an online survey to gauge college football fandom. The result? Alabama leads with about a little more than half of the survey's Alabama-based respondents choosing the Crimson Tide and about a third choosing Auburn. Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents, about 3,400, were from inside Alabama's borders. Samford researchers were most interested in Alabama vs. Auburn fandom in metro Birmingham and broke down the rivalry by zip code and hometown. For instance, Alabama fans hold a 57-43 edge over Auburn fans in Hoover, according to the survey. In fact in more than 20 towns or neighborhoods in metro Birmingham, only three showed more Auburn fans and two others reflected a 50/50 split.

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