Tuesday, June 9, 2020   
Weather keeps watermelon production on track
Good spring weather conditions in southeast Mississippi kept watermelon production on track. Some growers in these southeastern counties, where most of the state's watermelons are grown, are just beginning to harvest their crops. "It's been dry down here, so we got our fields planted on time, and the crop looks good," said Heath Steede, Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in George County. "All of my growers irrigate, so dry weather is not a big concern. We had some cool nights early on that slowed the crop down a little, but it caught back up." According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Crop Progress and Condition Report, 20% of Mississippi watermelons had been harvested as of May 31, compared to 1% at the same time last year. Crop quality also is favorable, with 82% in good condition, 14% in fair condition and only 4% in poor condition. Excessive rainfall and rising temperatures also increase the potential for disease problems, which is something growers haven't seen much of yet.
Mississippi 30 Day Fund launches to help small businesses with forgivable loans
Small businesses in Mississippi can apply for as much as $3,000 through the newly formed Mississippi 30 Day Fund, which was created to provide immediate financial help to those battling through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund was seeded by Marie and Brian Sanderson, lifelong Mississippians, and business and philanthropic leaders across the state. Those wishing to make a charitable contribution to this 501(c)(3) organization can do so by visiting the website. These forgivable loans is designed to be "quick, easy, and free of red tape, as small business owners work to keep employees on board and operations running in the near term," a press release. Businesses awarded funds are not required to repay them but are asked to "pay it forward" to other Mississippians in need or by directing contributions to the Fund. The Mississippi 30 Day Fund is partnering with Mississippi State University's School of Business and the University of Mississippi School of Law, whose MBA candidates and law students will make an initial review of applications for eligibility.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says mask-shaming during virus is 'wrong'
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that the state still faces danger from the coronavirus pandemic, and people should not harass or make fun of those who follow public health recommendations to wear masks in public. During a news conference, a Columbus reporter asked about "mask shaming." Joey Barnes of WCBI-TV said he had his face covered while shopping at Walmart and a man looked him in the eye and coughed three short times. "It's wrong," Reeves said. "If people want to wear a mask into a Walmart or into a restaurant or into any other business -- not only should they be allowed to do so; in many instances, they ought to be credited for doing so. ... Everyone out there that is choosing to wear a mask is actually doing something good for their fellow Mississippians." Reeves said he and the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, spent Monday morning in phone calls with mayors and county supervisors urging them to be vigilant about trying to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Mississippi voted to keep its state flag in 2001. A lot has changed since then
An entire generation of Mississippians has grown up since Mississippi voted in 2001 to keep its state flag. They came of age seeing photos of a noose around the neck of the James Meredith statue at the University of Mississippi. They saw South Carolina remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of its Capitol after a mass shooting at a black church. They have seen the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after police killed Michael Brown, and in Baltimore, after Freddie Gray died from injuries sustained in the back of a police van People rally against police brutality in front of the governor's mansion Saturday, June 6, 2020. The protest, organized by Black Lives Matter Mississippi, follows a wave of protests across the state and country after the death of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police in May. This generation is now at the vanguard of the movement for police accountability and racial equality in Mississippi. They have played key roles in organizing protests around the state after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. As protesters and public officials in cities such as Birmingham, Alabama, take down Confederate memorials, Mississippi's flag is once more being reexamined by residents young and old, Democrat and Republican, black and white.
Lawmakers Have Mixed Opinions On Changing State Flag
Mississippi's state flag is the last to bear a confederate emblem. Many residents want to see it replaced with a symbol that could unify the state. "I personally don't have an issue if the flag changes, this is not the first flag that has flown over the state of Mississippi," said Rob Roberson, District 43 State Representative. "I get both sides, I kind of feel like I'm a bridge between these two camps, and I completely understand where both are coming from." Roberson was a state lawmaker in 2001 when changing the design of the flag made the ballot. During that election, Mississippians had a chance to vote, to either keep the current flag or adopt a flag designed by a committee appointed by then governor Ronnie Musgrove. Roberson said he'd like to see things done that way again if the issue ends up on the ballot. "I think that if we voted on it, it really gives solidarity to all of us, we all have a part in making that decision," said Roberson. "Whatever position you fall on, you can vote your heart at that point."
'This is a divisive issue': Sen. Brice Wiggins calls for vote on state flag
Calls for change when it comes to the Mississippi state flag are not new but despite its history, efforts to change the Mississippi flag in the past have failed. However, recent demonstrations around the country sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody have reignited calls to change the current flag, the only state flag in the country that still bears the Confederate battle emblem. Now, whether it's done by a legislative vote or by a referendum vote, Sen. Brice Wiggins (MS-R) says he thinks it's time to revisit the issue. In a Facebook poll posted last week on Wiggin's Facebook page, he asked his followers the following: "Do you support the Stennis Flag as the flag to represent all of Mississippi?" 75.7 percent voted yes, in favor of the Stennis Flag while only 24.3 percent voted no. Wiggins said he wasn't surprised by the poll results, based off what he's heard from his constituents over the last eight years. "One of the things that this poll has kind of crystallized for me is that those folks, this new generation, the millennial generation, has not had that chance. And I don't know that that's right," said Wiggins.
State flag debate renewed as calls for change intensify
The recent protests across the country and the state, stemming from the death of George Floyd, have reignited the debate over the design of Mississippi's flag. As the only state flag to carry the Confederate battle emblem, calls for change have strengthened as conversations surrounding race and equality have come to the forefront. During his daily press briefing, Governor Tate Reeves was asked about his stance on the state flag, a question he was frequently asked during the 2019 election cycle. "My position has not changed. I spent much of 2019 telling the people of this state what I believe, and that is there is going to come a time, at some point I'm sure, in which the people of Mississippi are going to want to change the flag. My position is that when they want to do that, it should be the people who make that decision, not some backroom deal by a bunch of politicians in Jackson," he said. Governor Reeves went on to say that the events of the past few weeks have "justifiably" led to increased discussions around the flag and many other issues. In 2001, Mississippians voted 64%-36% in favor of the current design, which was adopted in 1894, but the Governor acknowledged that a lot has changed since that vote took place.
Bill that could end practice of public officials appearing in public service announcements during election years faces critical deadline
A bill that's already passed the Mississippi Senate unanimously would prevent public officials from appearing in taxpayer-funded public service announcements during an election year. Senate Bill 2053 is sponsored by state Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune would also prevent taxpayer funds from being used for any conference or convention organized by a lobbyist or one of their clients. Hill told the Northside Sun that these ads are tantamount to taxpayer-funded campaign ads. "If you're doing these public service announcements in any election year, you're basically getting free advertisement that other people aren't getting," Hill said. What the bill wouldn't prevent if it became law is the practice of agencies paying for association dues or registration fees for employees. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on March 11 and is now being considered by the House Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee. The deadline for the committee to report on the bill is today.
Can Mike Espy use this political moment to boost his Senate candidacy?
Jarrius Adams, a 22-year-old Mississippi activist, looked over the crowd of at least 3,000 people gathered in downtown Jackson on Saturday for a Black Lives Matter protest and grabbed the microphone. Adams welcomed the politicians who were in attendance but quickly requested that if they were approached by the media, they should refer questions to the young people -- all in their late teens and 20s -- who organized the massive event. Standing about 15 feet from the stage was Mike Espy, the 66-year-old Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate election this November. When Adams made the request, Espy looked over at a reporter and appeared to smile behind his mask and shrugged his shoulders as if to say he was there for the protest, not the media. When Espy announced last year that he would again challenge Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith after losing to her by eight points in a 2018 special election, he said to be successful this year he had to attract more young voters to the polls. Espy must have viewed Saturday as a step in achieving that goal.
A Small Mississippi Town, 'Asking for a Breath' After Mayor's Remarks Unleash Protests
In what has become a morning routine, Lorraine Bates walks the seven-tenths of a mile to City Hall from her house in Petal, Miss. In the first days of demonstrations, she joined some 200 other protesters, many of them white, chanting and waving "Black Lives Matter" posters. But there were also times when it was just her and a groundskeeper who mowed around her. She would keep coming, she said, until the mayor of Petal resigned, or at least exhibited something like genuine remorse for what he said about George Floyd after his fatal encounter with the Minneapolis police, including, "If you can say you can't breathe, you're breathing." The nation has been unsettled by the tsunami of fury and despair that Mr. Floyd's death helped set off, unleashing mass demonstrations and a forceful response from law enforcement in cities across the country. That wave has reached small towns like Petal.
Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests
Lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs announced Monday evening it is severing ties with former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) following days of anti-racism protests across the country. Mark Ruehlmann, chair and global CEO of Squire Patton Boggs, said in a statement that the firm "decided that it is the right time to make a change in the leadership of our industry leading Public Policy practice." Lott served as co-chair of the firm's public policy practice. He stepped down as Senate Majority Leader in 2002 after receiving backlash over remarks praising former Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), who was famously pro-segregation, for winning Mississippi in the 1948 presidential election. Lott apologized for his remarks, which then-President George W. Bush said were offensive, and stepped down days later. He left the Senate four years later after serving as Senate minority whip. Lott opened up a lobbying firm with ex-Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) in 2008, which was purchased by Patton Boggs in 2010.
White America is reckoning with racism. It could reshape 2020.
Joe Biden says he, like many white people, was wrong about racism in America. "I thought we had made enormous progress when we finally elected an African American president," he told voters in a livestreamed "Young Americans Town Hall" last week. "I thought you could defeat hate, you could kill hate. But the point is, you can't." The killing of George Floyd by a white police officer -- and the viral video of the agonizing 8 minutes and 46 seconds with the officer's knee on Floyd's neck -- has prompted a reckoning with racism for not only Biden, but for a wide swath of white America, according to polls conducted since Floyd's death and anecdotal evidence from around the country. Every state, including ones with overwhelmingly white populations like Utah and West Virginia, has seen multiple protests the past two weeks. Many white Americans, particularly those with college educations, no longer believe that Jim Crow-like conditions are a shameful relic left behind in the 1960's or that instances of police violence against African Americans are isolated, the result of rogue bad actors. Those swiftly changing attitudes could reshape the political landscape heading into November, especially as Biden and President Donald Trump diverge in their responses to the tumult.
Clinical trials to treat COVID-19 underway at UMMC
Daily coronavirus cases and deaths are reported in Mississippi and across the country. UMMC is nearly two months into patient trials to test drugs that could fight the respiratory virus. More than 30 patients are enrolled in COVID-19 clinical trials at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Four hundred patients are enrolled nationwide. "The more we learn about the natural progression of disease is, in other words, if they're going to get sicker, what the time frame is," said UMMC Emergency Medicine Chairman Dr. Alan Jones. "We should see if it appears as though some of these treatments are working." Jones said the trials will give valuable information about what course of action to take should there be a resurgence of the respiratory virus in the fall.
U. of Alabama will remove Confederate plaques
University of Alabama leaders announced late Monday that three plaques honoring Confederate soldiers will be removed. A group of trustees will begin a study of campus buildings and make recommendations about whether they should be renamed. The announcement comes at the heels of a push led by UA students to rename the buildings named for 19th-century state leaders who were slave owners and white supremacists. More than 17,000 people had signed a student-driven online petition as of Monday afternoon. The board of trustees of the University of Alabama System consulted with UA President Stuart Bell before authorizing the removal of three plaques on or in front of Gorgas Library. They will be relocated to "a more appropriate historical setting" at the recommendation of Bell, according to a statement. Board of trustees president pro tem Ronald Gray appointed a group of trustees including Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge John England Jr., Barbara Humphrey, Vanessa Leonard, Harris Morrissette, Scott Phelps and Stan Starnes to review and study the names of buildings on all UA System campuses and report to the board on any recommended changes. Their decisions will be recommended to the full board at a later date.
Day after LSU's bungled response to racist video: An apology and meeting with black student leaders
Black student leaders met with interim LSU president Tom Galligan and other school administrators for over an hour Monday to resolve the university's heavily criticized initial response to an incoming student who was caught on video yelling a racial slur. LSU's initial response, students in attendance said, made it seem like there was no process in place to hold the incoming student accountable. But, during the meeting, Galligan and school administrators assured the students such a process was indeed in place for students who make blatantly racist remarks. Galligan did not disclose the specific consequences, if any, the incoming student will face, citing privacy protections under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; but the student leaders presented a list of changes they wanted made to LSU's student code of conduct that would cover future scenarios and provide more clarity and explicit language that pertains to offensive language towards minority groups.
After George Floyd's death, U. of South Carolina alumni circulate petition to rename buildings
University of South Carolina alumni are circulating a petition to rename two buildings on campus whose namesakes were tied to segregation or slavery. The two online petitions, calling for the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center and Sims at Women's Quad, a dormitory for female students, to be renamed, have each received more than 2,000 signatures, according to the petitions. The petitions cite Thurmond's long opposition to racial integration and J. Marion Sims -- considered to be the father of modern gynecology -- experimenting on enslaved women without anesthesia. "I Googled his name and was immediately infuriated that the most prominent building on campus was named after a racist politician," said Heather Armel, a 2014 USC graduate who started the petition to rename the Strom Thurmond center. Buildings in S.C. can only be renamed by the state legislature, according to the Heritage Act.
U. of Kentucky students face unusual tuition increase in proposed budget
The University of Kentucky board will consider a 1 percent tuition increase for in-state students and a 2 percent bump for out-of-state students at this month's upcoming meeting. UK joins U of L in seeking a tuition bump this year. Many other Kentucky public universities have elected to freeze tuition because of COVID-19 complications. UK's proposed tuition increase is the smallest in at least the past decade. From 2010-2012, tuition increased by 6 percent every year. According to a budget briefing given to a small number of board members last week, the board will also consider a $4.4 billion budget which includes the funding for both the healthcare and academic sides of the university. About 47 percent of the revenue is generated by UK HealthCare. Tuition -- the next biggest chunk -- comprises 11 percent. Provost David Blackwell said during the briefing that the smaller increase in tuition is part of an ongoing effort to help make sure the university is more affordable. Most students mitigate their tuition costs with various forms of financial aid.
U. of Florida maintains its standardized testing requirement for college admission
Even in the midst of a pandemic, the stress of standardized testing remains a reality for University of Florida applicants. Colleges and universities across the country are relinquishing testing requirements for 2020 due to obstacles posed by COVID-19. More than two dozen schools have made testing optional for 2021 enrollment as well, according to the New York Times. UF has done neither. Admissions requirements for Florida's public state colleges and universities are made by the Board of Governors, said Charles Murphy, director of freshman and international admissions at UF. The Board has not yet made plans to waive the state's SAT/ACT test requirement for the foreseeable future. According to Murphy, Florida's university system is worried that removing the testing requirement for incoming freshmen would discourage students from taking the tests altogether. This could result in some students being ineligible for scholarships, Murphy said.
Aggie couple donates $2.6 million to help first-generation students at Texas A&M
Texas A&M University alumni Stephanie and Todd Routh have personally assisted employees' and friends' children apply to their alma mater, but said they soon became aware of challenges first-generation students face after watching some of them drop out. The experience is part of what encouraged the couple to donate $2.6 million to the Texas A&M Foundation to support first-generation students. According to a Texas A&M Foundation press release, the endowment will start The Stephanie Duprie Routh '93 and Todd Routh '86 First Generation Program. The funds will go toward the recently established Texas A&M Office for Student Success' efforts, including "learning communities" that connect students with mentors, employees at the office and the facility itself. First-generation students are people whose parents have not earned a bachelor's degree; they make up almost a quarter of the undergraduate population at A&M. Texas A&M associate provost for academic affairs and student success Tim Scott said in the release that first-generation students frequently have less of a sense of belonging on campus, which correlates with lower retention and graduation rates as well as longer time needed to earn a degree.
Protesters gather against outsourcing custodial, landscaping jobs at U. of Missouri
A rally Saturday protesting the outsourcing of custodial and landscaping jobs at the University of Missouri drew roughly 150 people to Traditions Plaza on campus. Members of Laborers Local 955, representing public sector workers in Missouri, helped organize the rally. Attendees included MU custodians, landscapers and other workers and supporters. "My job may be ... in jeopardy," protester Randy Wallace said. "Do I wait (for MU) to get rid of me, or do I try to speak up from the job?" "Stop the cuts," one speaker yelled to the crowd. "Don't take these jobs away." Supporters applauded and cheered. Cindy Hutchinson, a teacher in Columbia Public Schools, spoke first in Spanish then in English to show her support for MU employees. Former MU employee Meghon Ross held a sign that read, "People are not essential one day and expendable the next." As part of budget-cutting measures, MU is accepting proposals to outsource custodial and landscaping jobs.
Arizona State retracts job offer to new journalism dean after accusations of racism, mistreatment
A former KOMU-TV anchor and faculty editor at the University of Missouri-owned television station lost a job as dean at Arizona State University's journalism school after allegations of racism and mistreatment of students surfaced against her. ASU Provost Mark Searle said in an email Sunday to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication community that Sonya Forte Duhe, set to take over July 1 as the school's dean and CEO of Arizona PBS, would not be assuming the role. Duhe was an anchor and editor at KOMU from 1990 to 1993, when she was studying for a doctorate in journalism at MU. The decision to retract the offer to Duhe comes after she faced accusations from nearly two dozen former students at Loyola University in New Orleans, where she was the director of the School of Communication and Design. They told the State Press, ASU's student newspaper, that she engaged in behavior they found racist and discriminatory toward students of color and LGBTQ students. Duhe has not responded to any requests for comment over the past week.
U. of Memphis will start in-person classes on campus one week early in August
The 2020 fall semester will start a week early for students at the University of Memphis, with classes beginning on Monday, Aug. 17 and ending on Tuesday, Nov. 24, before the Thanksgiving holiday. The last day of classes will be on Nov. 17, followed by five days set aside for course exams. The university announced the change in schedule on social media, and attributed the decision to ongoing guidance from health experts evaluating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The university also said there would be no fall break this year, but Labor Day would be observed. The university's announcement indicated additional guidance about the fall semester would be forthcoming, as steering committees work to present recommendations for the fall semester to university administration. The move is similar to other universities in Tennessee, including the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which is starting on campus classes on Aug. 19.
Colleges continue announcing plans for a fall amid pandemic
With unrest and protests against police brutality now having spread to most major American cities, what was once the big story in higher education -- the coming fall term and its implications -- has faded to the background. But in that background, things continue to move. And colleges and universities continue to lay plans and make announcements about their coming terms. Changing the academic calendar has been a popular option for administrators who are hoping to reopen campuses. Other institutions have said they will expand their normal terms over the course of the year, as a way to make classes and campuses less dense. Stanford University, for example, announced that in addition to beginning and ending the fall quarter early, the university will spread instruction over four quarters, including the summer. Only about half of undergraduates will be allowed on campus in fall. Students who are permitted on campus will switch with their peers each subsequent quarter. The University of Texas at Austin said it will move as many as 2,100 fall courses exclusively online, about 20 percent of all courses offered. Students can choose to take all their classes online and not return to campus, although they will pay the same tuition as on-campus students. The university has joined others in saying it will end in-person classes by Thanksgiving.
Students organize for racial justice on campus and off
Summar McGee, a new graduate of Rice University, felt "helpless" as large protests led largely by young people like her spread in cities across the country after the police killing of George Floyd. Being back home in a small town in Mississippi after graduating just last month and watching the events unfold on television made her feel disconnected from the spontaneous social movement taking shape before her eyes, including in Houston, where the university is located and where Floyd's funeral was to be held today. The same energy and activism were not present in her own community, where she said the long history of racism discourages black people from speaking out against injustices. McGee had been the president of the Black Student Association at Rice, and she felt the group's own attempts to push for changes in the interest of black students, such as calling for more stringent hate speech policies and a reduced campus police presence, were largely ineffective. She personally experienced racism on campus and said although Rice administrators frequently spoke about its commitment to diversity and inclusion, the university's structure was not "built with diversity and inclusion in mind." "The question is, are you really about it? Now is the time to act," McGee said. "
Historically black colleges fight for survival, reopening amid coronavirus pandemic
After Alabama announced its first confirmed COVID-19 case March 13, Miles College President Bobbie Knight began making calls. She knew the historically black private college would have to shut down its 76-acre campus in Fairfield and devise a plan to operate remotely, but the first thing she needed to do was get her students back home safely. The problem, she soon realized, was that some of them had no place to go. Though all colleges have been hurt by coronavirus closures and face uncertainties in the fall, the impact is particularly acute for historically black colleges and universities. The same history of oppression and institutional racism that ignited protests against police violence across the USA has left most black schools underfunded, often operating on shoestring budgets and unprepared to absorb sudden shock. Most HBCUs -- particularly private colleges such as Miles that receive little to no state support -- depend more on enrollment and have smaller endowments than other universities. Some were struggling financially before the coronavirus, leaving experts to wonder how many will survive if the pandemic leads to a prolonged dip in enrollment.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. apologizes for tweet that included racist photo
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. apologized Monday for a tweet that included a racist photo that appeared on Gov. Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook page decades ago. "After listening to African American LU leaders and alumni over the past week and hearing their concerns, I understand that by tweeting an image to remind all of the governor's racist past I actually refreshed the trauma that image had caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point," he tweeted Monday. Falwell's apology comes after nearly three dozen black alumni denounced him last week. Falwell's reversal and apology also come as a growing number of evangelical groups align with peaceful demonstrations seeking action on racial justice in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Mitt Romney of Utah became the first GOP senator to participate a march against police brutality on Sunday, joining a group of nonpartisan marchers, among them evangelical Christians.
The long time connection between race, country music and military recruitment
Joseph M. Thompson, an assistant professor of history at Mississippi State University, writes in The Washington Post: As protesters against police killings take to the streets across the nation, different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces have begun to reckon with the issue of race and military service. The Marines announced a ban on public displays of the Confederate flag. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., an African American and Pacific Air Forces Commander, posted a video to Twitter detailing the racism he has faced while serving the country. Given the current momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement and the fact that more than 40 percent of the nation's active duty military are members of a racial minority, it makes sense that the armed forces are grappling with their racial politics. But if the military truly wants to change race relations in the ranks, it may have to rethink an old strategy that has made a recent comeback in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic -- the use of country music as a tool for military recruitment.

2020 MLB Draft: When Mississippi State baseball players could be picked
The 2020 MLB Draft will feel much different than normal for most people who follow it year to year. The draft has been shortened this season from 40 rounds to five because of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected baseball seasons and rosters at every level. The reduction of picks from 1,217 last year to 160 this year will leave many prospects without a chance to fulfill their dream of hearing their name called in the draft. That likely won't be the case for a few Mississippi State Bulldogs, though. The team has some players in line to be picked when the draft starts with the first round Wednesday at 6 p.m. central and concludes Thursday with rounds two through five starting at 4 p.m. Last year, the Diamond Dawgs had two players -- Ethan Small (first round) and Jake Mangum (fourth round) -- picked in the first five rounds of the draft. That number could be higher this year. Here's a breakdown of when Mississippi State products and high school targets are projected to be picked this week.
State Games 5K road race a welcome event for local runners
Two years in a row, Enterprise resident Chet Nicklas came in first at the State Games of Mississippi's 5K road race. His time in June 2019 was 19:41.7. Saturday at Bonita Lakes Park, his time was 19:29.0. As an assistant coach for the Clarkdale football team, Nicklas, 31, enjoys any outlet that allows him to compete, whether it's helping develop the Bulldogs football players or trying to beat last year's time. There haven't been many competitive outlets for Nicklas the last few months due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, and Saturday's road race provided the perfect opportunity for him to once again engage his competitive nature. "As a coach, I love competition," Nicklas said. "We haven't been able to meet with the football team. We haven't had spring (practices), and my son plays baseball and football, but we haven't been able to watch anything, so that was one of the main things I was excited about, being able to do something competitive."
How JSU and Alcorn State are prepping for student athletes returning
While in-state programs like Ole Miss and Mississippi State have already started bringing student athletes on campus JSU and Alcorn State are almost ready to do the same. These local SWAC programs are getting everything ready to finally host voluntary workouts for student athletes and there are two important people on their staffs who are helping make that happen. Jalisa Hunter is the head athletic trainer at Alcorn State and is entering her season with the Braves. Former strength and conditioning coach Dr. Derek Scott is the associate athletics director of internal operations at Jackson State. These individuals are key in helping formulate plans for student athletes to return at their respective campuses. They say both schools are doing everything they can to keep student athletes safe when they do return but it's going to take everyone doing their due diligence to make everything work.
This Mississippi All-Time, All-Pro team will mess with Texas or any state, for that matter
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Our task today? We're going to put together Team Mississippi, an All-Time, All-Pro football team of native Mississippians. We are going kick rear ends and take names. We'll mess with Texas and anyone else who wants to try us. We'll start with the offense. And why don't we start at quarterback where we'll go with Brett Favre (Kiln), a three-time league MVP who retired as the NFL's all-time leading passer and now ranks fourth. Not bad for starters. We've got Steve McNair (Mount Olive), Charlie Conerly (Clarksdale) and Archie Manning (Drew) if Favre needs a break, which, famously, he never did. He started 321 consecutive games, a pro football record. ... When we run, we'll give it to Sweetness, Walter Payton, No. 34 on his uniform, No. 2 on the all-time pro football rushing list. He's only the best football player these eyes have ever seen. ... The old saying is that it's what's up front that counts. Kent Hull, a Buffalo Bills Wall of Famer and three-time Pro Bowler from Greenwood will snap it, flanked on either side by Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Billy Shaw (Vicksburg) and Gabe Jackson (Liberty).
NCAA Set to Take Significant Step on Plan for College Football Preseason
Football coaches could begin interacting with their players as soon as the second week of July and by mid-July, they'll be conducting walk-through practices, with a ball. That's according to an NCAA proposal set for approval this week. Continuing their progress toward an on-time kickoff to the season, college athletic leaders are set to take a giant leap down that path. On Thursday, the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee is expected to approve the long-talked-about six-week preseason practice plan and recommend it to the NCAA D-I Council. The plan is in the last stages of finalization. A draft of the plan has been circulated to conference offices and athletic departments for feedback. The D-I Council would approve the final version of the plan at its next meeting on June 17. Only small adjustments are expected over the next three days. "We're 90% there," Shane Lyons, the West Virginia athletic director and chair of the Oversight Committee, told Sports Illustrated in an interview Monday.
CFP's Bill Hancock reacts to report of shortened college football season
If Bill Hancock is anything, it is consistent. The executive director of the College Football Playoff said the plan hasn't changed for the CFP even as reports of a shortened season have circulated. Last week, The New York Times reported the 2020 season could be shortened so that conference championship games would be completed by Thanksgiving. Hancock, on "The Opening Kickoff" on WNSP-FM 105.5 on Monday, re-iterated the upcoming CFP schedule hasn't changed. The committee will meet in person for the weekly evaluations this season, and the games are still a go for January. "We are still planning to play the semifinals Jan. 1 and the championship game Jan. 11," Hancock said. "(NCAA president) Dr. (Mark) Emmert and the NCAA have many decisions to make just like everyone in college athletics. One thing the NCAA has to decide is what to do with the fall championships. The NCAA has shown a lot of flexibility to help everyone get through this, and I think they'll continue to do that, but we're still planning to play Jan. 1 and Jan. 11."
Building bubbles: Cautious 1st steps toward football season
College football is scheduled to kick off in less than three months and there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful that games will be played Labor Day weekend. Universities across the country are taking the first cautious, detailed steps toward playing football in a pandemic, attempting to build COVID-19-free bubbles around their teams as players begin voluntary workouts. "There's an element of this that's kind of like building an airplane as you fly it in that we're learning so much more really every week," Notre Dame football team Dr. Matt Leiszler said. "But it's a moving target at times." Having players return to campus infected is worrisome but inevitable. The protocols being put in place are designed to catch and address that. The real challenge is keeping the players from getting infected after they return.
Butch Thompson looks forward to 'unique' MLB Draft for Auburn baseball
Auburn head baseball coach Butch Thompson is looking forward to the MLB Draft, hopeful that Auburn will continue into its 46th year of producing a draft pick. Auburn has had 22 picks in the MLB Draft since 2016, including the first overall of pick Casey Mize in 2018. This year's draft will consist of just five rounds rather than the usual 40. "What I would say about this 2020 draft is that it's unique, unlike, and it seems like there are more unknowns with this draft than any I've been privy to," Thompson said. "Next year, I'll be entering my 20th year in the Southeastern Conference, and this will be the most unique draft I've been a part of." With the 2020 MLB season still in the air, this leaves clubs with several different options of how they will determine their picks. Despite that unknown, Thompson is confident in junior pitcher Tanner Burns. Auburn is expecting Burns to be the third player ever taken in the first-round in program history. The MLB Draft will consist of five rounds with a total of 160 picks starting Wednesday, June 10, at 6 p.m. CT.
No Tennessee football players have tested positive for coronavirus, Jeremy Pruitt says
Tennessee football has welcomed 91 players back to campus without a positive coronavirus cases, Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt said Tuesday. "We brought in 72 guys last Wednesday," Pruitt said on Golic and Wingo on ESPN Radio. "Of course, we've done the COVID test and the antibody test. And we brought in 19 other guys on Saturday, and over the next 10 to 14 days, there'll be probably 10 to 20 more guys come in. "We've not had any positives within our student-athletes." Tennessee, which began voluntary workouts, did have a positive test from a graduate assistant. Pruitt said the graduate assistant has "been quarantined for 14 days." Many universities around the SEC have brought players back to campus with a pair of schools reporting positive cases. Alabama had five cases reported Thursday and Auburn had three reported Sunday. UT is requiring athletes to wear masks in all facilities and will provide cloth masks that will be laundered by the equipment staff. Masks will not be required during cardiovascular training.
Clemson's Dabo Swinney defends response to assistant coach's use of racial slur
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on Monday defended his response to an assistant coach's use of a racial slur during a practice three years ago. Nearly a week after assistant coach Danny Pearman apologized for using the slur, Swinney made his first public comments about what happened in a taped message posted to the team's website. Swinney said former tight end D.J. Greenlee and Pearman were on a separate part of the practice field when an argument happened in 2017. Greenlee told The State newspaper, "Me and the coach got into it, and I was speaking with one of my teammates. He heard me use the N-word, basically, and basically tried to correct me by saying the N-word back." Swinney said Greenlee approached him privately to discuss what happened. According to Swinney, Pearman was "profusely apologetic." Swinney was also criticized on social media over the weekend after he was photographed wearing a "Football Matters" shirt. He said he got it from the National Football Foundation as part of an initiative. (The foundation tweeted over the weekend that it will change the name of the campaign)
Bubba Wallace says NASCAR should ban confederate flags: 'Get them out of here'
NASCAR driver Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. believes the governing body should outright ban confederate flags from races, the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports drivers said Monday on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon. Wallace spoke with the CNN host about participating in a collective video statement with other big-name NASCAR drivers condemning racism and encouraging others to "listen and learn" as a way to fight injustice. Drivers posted the video to social media before Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and FOX aired it just before the green flag flew. When Lemon asked Wallace -- the only black driver at NASCAR's top level -- what the next step for NASCAR needs to be if it's committed to fighting racism, the driver said banning the confederate flag, a symbol of slavery that's often seen at races. Wallace said behind-the-scenes conversations are being had to answer questions about future action, but he explained his own suggestion: "My next step would be to get rid of all confederate flags. There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying."

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