Wednesday, June 10, 2020   
4-H hosts first-ever Virtual State Congress
With social distancing measures still in place, Mississippi 4-H'ers will participate in the state's first-ever Virtual State 4-H Congress in 2020 instead of the traditional in-person gathering. The event will be held online July 6-31 and is open to senior 4-H'ers who were 14 to 18 years old as of Jan. 1. The theme is "4-H: Inspires Vision." Each year, senior 4-H members come together from across the state to participate in the three-day event customarily held on the Mississippi State University campus. Participants engage in leadership and educational opportunities. Traditional contests held at State 4-H Congress will not be held on the virtual platform. 4-H'ers can sign up to participate in one or more educational modules. The four modules are Career Readiness, Agriculture and STEM, Leadership and Citizenship, and Healthy Living and Family Consumer Sciences. Participants can work at their own pace and earn a certificate when they successfully complete the module. 4-H'ers must contact their 4-H agent to register.
Local 4H keeping members engaged during pandemic
As restrictions have eased across the nation in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pearl River County's 4H has been hard at work finding ways to keep its members engaged. One of the ways that has been achieved is by hosting certain events that translate well via online platforms, which includes several photography contests. Normally there would be a photography exhibit at the annual 4H Congress, which has been moved online because of COVID-19, so the organization decided to still offer members the opportunity to take photos and share them virtually in a contest that is set to end June 15. Pearl River County Extension Agent Alex Shook said moving the contests online was just one instance in which 4H has adapted to the new normal of living during a pandemic. "The photography contests would've taken place during that time (anyway), this was just a different way to deliver that opportunity. That was just an adaptation by the 4H extension to keep it going and give kids something to do," Shook said. The organization's state congress, which usually takes place on the campus of Mississippi State University and is comprised of a plethora of contests and educational opportunities, has taken the virtual route as well and will run from July 6 through July 31.
Oktibbeha Youth Court Judge Lydia Quarles: Some youths amass 50 felony charges by age 18
All 50 states have seen protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the past two weeks, but Oktibbeha County Youth Court Judge Lydia Quarles saw another lesson to be learned from the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May. "I know many young men in our community who I believe are growing up the same way George Floyd grew up," Quarles said at the Starkville Rotary Club's virtual meeting Monday. "There's no excuse for his death, but I believe the community failed him many, many years prior to his untimely death." Floyd had several felony convictions to his name and had served prison time, she said, and such behavior patterns start young. Some children in Oktibbeha County receive as many as 50 felony charges before they turn 18, she said. The purpose of youth court is to address crimes committed by minors, but the court sees many of the same offenders over and over again, indicating an inefficient juvenile justice system, Quarles said.
Racial justice marches spark interest in local NAACP chapters
Yulanda Haddix first became a member of the NAACP at age 18 and has been a member of the Oktibbeha County chapter since returning to Starkville in 2014, serving the last two years as its president. Lavonne Harris has been president of the Columbus-Lowndes NAACP for 14 years. During all that time, neither has seen anything quite like what they've witnessed the past couple of weeks. Over the weekend, marches calling for racial justice in both Starkville and Columbus drew large, diverse crowds, something both Harris and Haddix believe marks a significant milestone in the long march toward justice that has been the focus of the NAACP since its founding in 1909. Haddix said the recent stirring of America's conscience proved her long years of work with the NAACP were not in vain. She left Starkville in 1983 when her husband, Michael Haddix, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. At the time she left, she questioned whether conditions for blacks in Mississippi would ever change. "I left here saying I would never come back," Haddix said. "When I did come back, I said to myself that there has to be a change and I have to be involved in it. This weekend told me that wasn't a mistake. It was confirmation that we can make a change."
Nissan: No plans to suspend production after several employees test positive for coronavirus
Several employees at the Nissan plant in Canton have tested positive for COVID-19. According to spokeswoman Lloryn Love-Carter, the automotive plant has no plans to suspend production. Carter said the individuals did not work together in the same area and were immediately requested to seek medical attention. Other workers who may have come in contact with those who tested positive for coronavirus were notified and are now quarantined. Love-Carter says the facility has disinfected any potentially affected work areas and that there is no indication that the individuals contracted the coronavirus while at work. Overall, the safety measures we are implementing across our U.S. manufacturing operations include best practices and recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other government agencies.
Rice Prices Spike to Highest Level Since 2011
Rice futures spiked to their highest level in nearly nine years after the global pandemic boosted shoppers' demand for the grain. One measure of prices has soared 47% in the last two weeks to touch its highest level since November 2011, making rice one of the fastest-climbing major commodities in the recent market rally. The surge has been fueled by a spike in retail sales, with consumers stocking up on essentials during pandemic lockdowns. That increase in demand met a lower-than-expected supply. Rice production in the U.S. in 2019 fell 17% to roughly 18.5 billion pounds, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's because record rainfall that hit the U.S. Corn Belt last spring also affected states such as Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, where most U.S. rice is grown. "The same issues that plagued corn and soybean crops also affected rice," said John Newton, chief economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. A much more hospitable spring planting season this year means that the price increase may prove temporary, said Mr. Newton.
Pascagoula hoping for economic boom now that Ingalls East Bank is once again open
For the first time in nearly 15 years, the East Bank of Ingalls Shipbuilding is open once again. With the increased traffic on that side of town, businesses on the south side of Pascagoula are hoping to see a boost. Just a block west of the shipyard's entrance sits East Bank Convenience Store on the corner of Pascagoula Street and Ingalls Avenue. The store has been open for about a year and a half, eagerly awaiting this week and the re-opening of the shipyard. "We've named the store for the East Bank because, you know, they're the biggest game in town down here," said the store's night manager Timothy Greene. "We just wanted to make sure that we let them know that this is for them." Businesses aren't the only ones looking forward to an increase in revenue. City officials are also expecting a significant economic boom thanks to reopening of East Bank. "From an economic standpoint, it will certainly bring more jobs to our community and it will potentially help businesses as well since there will be a lot of drive-through traffic coming for lunch and stopping to get gas and other items," said Pascagoula City Manager Michael Silverman.
Bipartisan group of lawmakers, with Speaker Gunn's blessing, pushes to change Mississippi state flag
A bipartisan group of Mississippi lawmakers, with the blessing of Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, began whipping votes and drafting a resolution on Monday to change the state flag, which was adopted in 1894 and is the last in the nation containing the Confederate battle emblem. The conversation behind closed doors this week marks one of the first earnest legislative discussions about changing the state flag since the 2001 referendum in which Mississippians voted nearly 2-to-1 to keep the current flag. It also comes as tens of thousands of black Mississippians and their multi-racial allies march the streets to protest racial inequalities in government. About a dozen Republicans and Democrats in the House met privately on Monday afternoon to discuss changing the flag. Later in the afternoon, representatives of that bipartisan group met with Gunn to gauge his interest in helping their efforts, according to several sources with direct knowledge of the meeting.
Can the state flag be changed this session?
Protests surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis have spread across the nation. Since then, conversation has risen in Mississippi on whether or not state leaders should call for the removal and change of the state flag. Currently, Mississippi's flag contains the Confederate battle symbol, which is largely viewed as a racist symbol. Senator Derrick Simmons (D), Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said that conversations have been underway between both chambers regarding the possibility of introducing a resolution to have the flag changed by way of the Legislature. However, President Pro Tempore of the Senate Dean Kirby (R) said he has not been approached by any of the members or the Lt. Governor at this time about possible legislation. Other leading Senate Republicans also say that some of the reporting of legislative momentum to make a change this session, quoting mostly unnamed sources, may be a bit more aspirational than reflective of reality. This stands at least in the Senate.
Mississippi teacher pay raise plan dies amid budget concerns
A proposed teacher pay raise has died at the Mississippi Capitol because of budget concerns during the coronavirus pandemic. The state Senate passed a bill in early February to provide a $1,000 pay raise to most teachers and teachers' assistants during the budget year that begins July 1. The plan would have given larger raises of $1,100 to teachers in the first two years of their careers, in an effort to boost the beginning pay and make the jobs more attractive. Senate Bill 2001 moved to the House for more debate. The coronavirus pandemic struck the state in March, knocking people out of work and dimming the state's budget prospects. Tuesday was the deadline for House committees to act on the teacher pay bill, and the plan died.
A consequence of coronavirus: Mississippi teachers won't receive pay raise this year
Before the coronavirus pandemic, statewide elected officials promised and the Mississippi Legislature moved quickly on a bill that would provide annual pay raises for public school teachers. Now, as lawmakers worry about the state budget during the pandemic, it's dead. Senate Bill 2001, which would have raised teacher pay in the state with one of the lowest average teacher salaries, died in House committee on Tuesday's legislative deadline. Early in the session, the Senate passed a bill that would give a $1,110 raise to teachers in their first three years of teaching, and $1,000 for all other teachers thereafter. For assistant teachers, their salaries would increase to $15,000; a brand new teacher with a bachelor's degree would earn $37,000. The bill died in the House Education committee on Tuesday after lawmakers failed to take it up. When asked why the bill would not move forward in the legislative process, House Education Committee chairman Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, told Mississippi Today: "Look at the budget."
'There's a whole community that's ready for this change:' rural Northeast Mississippians making voices heard amid national protests
Those eight minutes and 46 seconds when George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody ignited history. As all 50 states protested for justice from police brutality and systemic racism, small towns in Northeast Mississippi made sure to add their voices in stating that Black Lives Matter. Booneville, Corinth, New Albany, Pontotoc and Ripley held protests honoring George Floyd and encouraging unity in their communities from June 5 to June 7, with Corinth hosting two separate days to protest. The six total protests drew over 1,000 attendees. Whether they gathered to pray, march, protest, rally or stand in solidarity, the goal remained the same: encouraging the community to come together in support of Black lives. Eighteen-year-old Rashaan White, founder of Teenagers Against Violence in Pontotoc, was surprised by the support her June 6 rally received. "Because Pontotoc is a conservative city, I wasn't really sure if a lot of people would be able to come out and that we would have people supporting it, but it meant a lot to me to see all those people come out and speak out, especially with the Mayor and the police station on our side, as well," White said.
Trent Lott fired by top lobbying firm
The prominent Washington law and lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs fired former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, one of its top lobbyists, on Monday as Lott was preparing to decamp for another firm. The firm gave no reason for the Mississippi Republican's sudden departure and declined to answer questions about it. Asked whether it would be accurate to describe his departure as a firing, a Squire Patton Boggs spokesman reiterated that the "firm's leadership decided to part ways with Senator Lott." But Lott said in an interview that he and his longtime business partner, former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), were in talks with another lobbying firm -- he declined to say which one -- when Squire Patton Boggs found out and took "what I would consider the low road." The decision may have backfired: Lott said he had gotten inquiries from three other lobbying firms interested in hiring the duo since Squire Patton Boggs announced his ouster. He expects Breaux to resign from the firm today.
Former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients
Former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) on Tuesday said he was in negotiations to depart lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs prior to the firm announcing they were severing ties with him, citing that it was anticipating issues that could arrive amid anti-racism protests that have erupted across the country. "It's really quite simple. Sen. Breaux and I had decided maybe it's time that we move on from the law firm," Lott told The Hill. "Instead of trying to work it out amicably with maybe a joint statement, they took this low road. I would say it surprises me but it doesn't." Lott and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) opened up a lobbying firm together in 2008, which was purchased by Squire Patton Boggs in 2010. Lott added, "What they're really trying to do is cut off our ability to leave and get or take clients, that's what it's really all about." A source familiar with the move told The Hill that Squire Patton Boggs tried to "negatively brand Lott's departure" after becoming angry that he was talking to another firm.
'Blood in the water': Dems get unexpected opening against Trump in Iowa
Iowa, once a model swing state, fell so hard for Donald Trump four years ago that 2020 seemed like a forgone conclusion. But in a sign of how Trump's reelection prospects have weakened across the country, even the heartland may be having second thoughts. Since the start of the year, Democrats in Iowa have added about twice as many active voters to their rolls as Republicans, nudging ahead in total registration for the first time in years. The farm economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. And though Trump still holds a small lead in the state, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, he's now airing TV advertisements there -- a tacit acknowledgment that the campaign anticipates a contest. "We were approaching 'done' status -- stick a fork in us," Sue Dvorsky, a former chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said of the party's status after the 2016 election. Now, she said, "the worm is turning." That Iowa is even on the radar is surprising. Unlike in Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania, Iowa four years ago was never in doubt.
Surviving in America's Black Belt amid pandemic and job loss
Life can be tough even on a good day in the Black Belt, where some of the poorest people in America are, as usual, depending on each other to survive. Their struggle has become even more difficult with unemployment intensifying and coronavirus infections raging. Both the need and the relief have been on display in the historic civil rights city of Selma, Alabama, where volunteers distributed free food to scores of people, many of whom shared rides from isolated communities just to get to the school where boxes of fruit and vegetables were available. Stretching from Louisiana to Virginia, the Black Belt is a crescent-shaped agricultural region first known for the color of its soil and then for its mostly black population. It provided for much of the antebellum South's cotton economy, and remains home to many descendants of slaves. With relatively little industry and a declining population, poverty remains a constant problem. Now the virus that causes COVID-19, which is killing U.S. blacks in disproportionately large numbers, has taken hold as well.
Jackson Heart Study Links Smoking With Higher Risk of Stroke in African Americans
Researchers with the Jackson Heart Study found that African Americans who smoke are at a higher risk for stroke than those who have never smoked. The study shows that African Americans who smoke increase their risk of dying from a stroke nearly two and a half times that of non-smokers. The study also finds that African Americans are already twice as likely as Whites to have a stroke and die from it. Dr. Adebamike Oshunbade is the lead author of the study. He says the study divided participants into light smokers and high intensity smokers who use 20 cigarettes per day or more. Dr. Oshunbade says when African Americans smoke more than a pack of cigarettes a day, the risk only increases, saying "the more you smoke, the more you stroke." "Smoking predisposes to greater risk of developing a stroke, and when you smoke more than a pack a day, the risk only increases. So there is a direct response with the risk of stroke and the normal [amounts] of cigarettes you smoke in a day," says Dr. Oshunbade.
William Carey making progress on new Student Activities Center
William Carey University is nearing completion of the new Student Activities Center being built on its Hattiesburg campus. The exterior work is in its final stages of being completed and indoor construction has begun. The new three-story building will provide a meeting place for the Baptist Student Union, a recreational area, student lounge, a grill and eating area and a business center. Vice President of Student Support Valerie Bridgefort says this will be a place the students can call their own. "We felt it was important for our students to have a space in which they can enjoy, they can be comfortable in-between classes," Bridgeforth said. "Sometimes they need a break to just come and have something to drink, maybe charge their cell phones and just relax. We have some games and activities that we'll have for them, but this will be their place. There's a lot of excitement from our student body about having this new building on campus, the students are really looking forward to it when they are able to return in a safe manner."
Pearl River Community College finishing construction projects on campus
Several construction projects at Pearl River Community College are nearing completion. Renovations to The Forrest County Center include a multipurpose room, police station, new bookstore and micro market. PRCC officials say these renovations are taking place in Building 5, which will also house a new health and fitness area. "We are so excited about this new addition to the Forrest County Center. Students will receive a wide variety of services in the new bookstore including the sale of new merchandise, electronics and a wide gift section," said Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing Candace Harper. A new courtyard, funded by a $375K grant through the Mississippi Department of Transportation, is also being created to connect buildings 3 and 5 on the FCC. "We will have a brand-new bookstore and grill, an updated assembly room, a savvy workout space and a designated honors college wing with an industrial modern appeal," said Vice President for Forrest County Center, Allied Health and Nursing Programs Dr. Jana Causey. The Poplarville campus is also finishing up its project to the science and math building, as well as a new annex that will house state of the art labs for Pearl River's Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, A&P and Microbiology classes.
Honeybees removed from U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville's Old Main
An estimated 20,000 bees were removed Friday and Monday from outside the fifth floor of Old Main on the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus, said beekeeper Caleb Hutcherson. "I don't believe they would have harmed anyone," said Hutcherson, a 23-year-old UA student. The colony had made its home in a soffit, a portion of an overhanging eave. Hutcherson cut apart layers of honeycomb while using a vacuum to gather the bees. He was helped on the job by a beekeeping partner, Aavron Estep, as well as a UA facilities worker and a lift provided by the university. The bees have been moved to a Prairie Grove farm operated by Hutcherson's family about 12 miles from campus. Pick and Peck Farms is also where Hutcherson began his beekeeping business about two years ago, C's Bees. The bees had found what amounted to a perfect setup on the UA campus, said Hutcherson, a rising senior who said he's majoring in economics and agribusiness. The bees had made their home in an isolated area that gave them shelter for their honeycomb. The campus grounds also provided plenty of nourishment, Hutcherson said.
Fall student who wrote racist social media post won't join U. of Florida
A prospective student from Cape Coral will not attend the University of Florida this fall, after an Instagram post from her past resurfaced and ricocheted across social media last week. UF insinuated, but did not confirm, Monday evening that it has revoked the 17-year-old's acceptance offer, announcing on Twitter that "a prospective student who posted racist comments on social media will not be joining the University of Florida community this fall." The post, in which the prospective student refers to two black girls in her class and said she "most definitely is" racist, was dug up from almost two years ago and shared on Twitter over 500 times. Students and alumni alike demanded UF rescind her acceptance letter, sharing screenshots of their emails to the Division of Student Affairs with their request. UF responded on Twitter last week that it would investigate the posts. UF spokesman Steve Orlando confirmed Tuesday that the young woman is no longer a prospective UF student, but said student confidentiality rules prevent him from divulging if the university rescinded her offer.
Texas A&M to require face coverings on campus effective Monday
Texas A&M has announced everyone will be required to wear face coverings on campus beginning Monday. The requirement was outlined in a letter from Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young on Tuesday to university faculty, staff, students and visitors. The policy states masks will be required in indoor public areas, except where marked, and outdoor spaces where six feet or more of social distancing cannot be maintained. The policy applies to all individuals, whether they are in a group or alone. In addition to public buildings and spaces on campus, the policy, according to the message, also applies to all non-private offices or residential spaces, which includes lobbies, restrooms, classrooms, teaching and research laboratories, residence hall common areas, conference rooms and break rooms. The policy, he states, is part of the university's effort to return to on-campus instruction in the fall. Multiple committees, including one focused on face coverings, have been working to find solutions to make that return possible.
U. of Missouri System curators approve risk assessment and audit plans amid COVID-19 uncertainty
A University of Missouri System Board of Curators committee unanimously approved the system's risk assessment and audit plans for the upcoming year Tuesday, shifting focus to emerging risks and concerns due to COVID-19. While traditionally the system has handled internal audits and risk assessments annually and on a more gradual basis, the pandemic's "immediate risks to the financial health and business model" have resulted in plans for fiscal year 2021 that are frequently evaluated and adjusted, according to the plans. "There is no silver bullet" to minimizing COVID-19's impact on the system, according to a report detailing its effects on risk assessment. That report includes 17 potential emerging risks to the system, including supply chain management, adjusted operations, remote technology, privacy concerns, enrollment and a number of issues related to MU Health Care. The system's prioritized audits and assessments will be reevaluated every 60 to 90 days as leadership continues to make changes throughout the year, according to the plans.
More confusion over feds' take on emergency aid grants for students
The U.S Department of Education on Tuesday appeared to be on the verge of issuing an interim rule saying again that undocumented college students and others not eligible for regular financial aid couldn't get the emergency grants created in the federal CARES Act. But in the latest in a series of twists, turns, advances and retreats by the department as it tries to distribute the grants for colleges to hand out, the department abruptly pulled back. The new rule wasn't ready yet and wouldn't be for at least a week, Justice Department attorneys representing the Education Department wrote in a filing in a federal lawsuit brought by the California community college system. The lawyers didn't explain, but it appeared the department had hoped the rule would be approved by the White House's Office of Management and Budget, a necessary final step, in time to be announced Tuesday. But the interim rule is still being reviewed by the White House and hasn't been abandoned, confirmed an Education Department spokeswoman. It didn't appear the delay will change the department's stance that many students are not eligible for the grants, which are supposed to help students whose lives were disrupted by the pandemic with the cost of such things as food and housing.
Researchers around the world prepare to #ShutDownSTEM and 'Strike For Black Lives'
Thousands of researchers around the world have pledged to pause their work on Wednesday to support the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and efforts against racism in the scientific community and society at large. Responding to calls from an array of organizers operating under banners including the Strike For Black Lives, #ShutDownSTEM, and #ShutDownAcademia, numerous university laboratories, scientific societies, technical journals, and others have pledged to spend 10 June focused on issues of racial equality and inclusiveness. Those who participate should "stop all usual academic work for the day, including teaching, research, and service responsibilities," the organizers of Strike For Black Lives write on their website. Black strikers should spend the day doing "whatever nourishes their hearts," it states, while non-Black strikers should "take actions that center Black lives and agitate for change in our communities."
London may remove statues as George Floyd's death sparks change
London's mayor announced Tuesday that more statues of imperialist figures could be removed from Britain's streets after protesters knocked down the monument to a slave trader, as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis continued to spark protests --- and drive change --- around the world. Sadiq Khan said he was setting up a commission to ensure the British capital's monuments reflected its diversity. On Sunday, protesters in the southwestern English city of Bristol hauled down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader and philanthropist, and dumped in the city's harbor. Colston's demise has reinvigorated Oxford University campaigners calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist in southern Africa who made a fortune from mines and endowed the university's Rhodes scholarships. The city of Oxford encouraged the university's Oriel College to apply for permission to remove the statue so that it could be placed in a museum. The college has for years resisted campaigns to take Rhodes down from his place above its main entrance.
Faculty Want a Say in Whether They Teach Face to Face. The Conversation Is Not Going Well.
In announcing its plans to resume in-person instruction as of August 10, the University of Notre Dame became one of the first major institutions to answer the question on higher education's collective mind: How will we approach the fall semester? Weeks after that announcement, Notre Dame's president, John I. Jenkins, doubled down on the importance of face-to-face education in a New York Times op-ed, writing that "the mark of a healthy society is its willingness to bear burdens and take risks for the education and well-being of its young." But in doing so, Jenkins and the administration raised a second, equally thorny question: What if faculty members don't want to take those risks? That's the concern shared by 140 Notre Dame faculty members who have signed a petition asserting that "all faculty members should be allowed to make their own prudential judgments about whether to teach in-person classes." At Notre Dame and colleges across the nation, faculty members argue that they're not being given a say in a decision that could have consequences crucial to their own health and livelihoods. Even on campuses where administrators have solicited faculty members' thoughts about a return to face-to-face education -- often through surveys asking about how they'd prefer to teach their fall classes -- those efforts have generated a backlash. The way administrators try to gauge faculty opinion, many instructors say, feels coercive.
Unity March, rally felt far different than prior Mississippi reactions to past racial injustices
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: At Saturday's Starkville Unity March and subsequent rally on the campus of Mississippi State University, I watched and listened. I saw local white merchants bringing cases of bottled water and local white-owned restaurants dropping off food for organizers and the police. I saw many white business leaders, bankers, and civic club members participating in the march and staying for the rally. It felt different than any race-related event and certainly any protest that I have ever witnessed as a citizen or covered as a reporter. It was hopeful. It had moments of sorrow, yes, but there was also a palpable joy. Older whites applauded and encouraged young black protestors as they spoke from their hearts. It was an event that felt a world away from the Mississippi of my childhood.

A Mississippi State guide for the 2020 MLB Draft
After tying a program record with 11 players selected in the 2019 MLB Draft, the next wave of Mississippi State players will become pros as soon as Wednesday night. Heading into the COVID-19-shortened 2020 MLB Draft -- down from 40 rounds to five -- a number of current Bulldogs and signees are slated to hear their names called. With that, here's what to expect from the MSU contingent this week.
Who is Jordan Westburg? A blossoming MLB Draft prospect from Mississippi State
Jordan Westburg won't stop improving. From his freshman season at Mississippi State in 2018 to his shortened junior season this spring, Westburg's numbers have improved across the board. His batting average went from .248 to .294 to .317. His slugging percentage went from .388 to .457 to .517. His on-base percentage went from .319 to .402 to .432. It's the constant improvement that has Westburg, a native of New Braunfels, Texas, in position to be a first or second round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Here are four things to know about the blossoming prospect.
Justin Foscue: 4 things to know about Mississippi State's 'pure hitter'
Justin Foscue did something during the 2019 season that no other Mississippi State Bulldog could – not even the SEC's all-time leader in hits, Jake Mangum. Foscue never went without a hit in consecutive games. Over a year later, Foscue is in position to be picked in the first or second round of the 2020 MLB Draft. A native of Huntsville, Alabama, and a graduate of Virgil Grissom High School, Foscue did enough at Mississippi State to have himself in position for a big payday this week. Here are four things to know about Foscue.
JT Ginn: 5 things to know about Mississippi State pitcher for MLB Draft
Mississippi State has had a successful history of putting pitchers in the majors over the last decade. Chris Stratton, Jonathan Holder, Brandon Woodruff, Dakota Hudson. That quartet played at Mississippi State within the last 10 years, and all four have pitched meaningful innings as major leaguers in recent seasons. The Milwaukee Brewers selected Ethan Small in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft. He is in line to be the next former MSU pitcher to reach the highest level of professional baseball. J.T. Ginn could follow Small shortly thereafter. Ginn has been an MLB prospect for years now. He had a chance to turn professional out of Brandon High School two years ago but chose to pursue his dream of becoming a Mississippi State Bulldog instead. Just a sophomore, Ginn will likely have another decision to make after this week's MLB Draft. Here are five things to know about him.
Seniority, generosity may decide who enters college stadiums
Athletic administrators at schools with high ticket demand for college football are making plans to determine who gets a seat if stadium capacities are reduced because of concerns about the coronavirus. This is a particularly painful task for athletic director Bill Moos of Nebraska, which has sold out every home football game since 1962. The Cornhuskers are a year-round passion in his state and the season ticket renewal rate for the 2020 season is a robust 93%. So which fans will gain entry to 85,000-seat Memorial Stadium if capacity is reduced by half or even 75%? Moos and his staff are weighing a number of variables, including whether all or some of the seven scheduled home games are played. How much money the season-ticket holder donates annually and how long he or she has owned the season tickets are also factors to determine priority. Moos is quick to point out that doesn't mean people down the list would get shut out. The ticketing dilemma is just one wrinkle schools are working through as college football pushes toward some kind of season. The complications of bringing students back to school and ensuring they are safe vary from state to state and from campus to campus. But most schools are planning for games -- and putting fans in the seats if they can.
UGA lays out Sanford Stadium fan options, COVID-19 protocols
The University of Georgia is preparing for a wide range of possibilities for how Sanford Stadium will look this football season, from no fans in attendance, limited attendance to full capacity. The details are part of UGA's Plans for a Phased Return to Full Operations released late Tuesday afternoon. An athletics working group headed by athletic director Greg McGarity came up with plans that cover the return of teams to campus, fan attendance at athletic venues and COVID-19 protocols for athletes. In a limited attendance option, there would be mandatory social distancing and seating would be in groups of two, four, five or six at Sanford Stadium. Designated seating throughout Sanford and other athletic venues would maintain a six foot distance with decals for concessions and restrooms and entrances. Misting tents and water refills stations will be eliminated. Cashless operations for parking, ticketing and concessions are envisioned. Concession workers will have to wear gloves and masks. In a full attendance option (92,746), there would be relaxed social distancing practices.
Texas A&M student-athletes return to campus for workouts
Texas A&M's weight rooms were in use Tuesday as student-athletes returned to campus for voluntary in-person athletic activity. "You definitely can feel the excitement throughout the players and pretty much through the whole building," senior quarterback Kellen Mond said in an interview with the school's athletic department. "Obviously, there's some limitations on what we can do throughout the building in workouts, but with what we can do right now, I know guys are excited to be back." It was the first time in almost three months A&M athletes used the facilities because of the coronavirus pandemic. The players aren't receiving coaching because the workouts are voluntary, but A&M head football coach Jimbo Fisher said Tuesday marked a huge step forward. "I think they're eager to do it and they're wanting to do it," Fisher said. "I think it gets them back to some normality."
NFL Players, Students Demand Clemson Remove John C. Calhoun's Name From Honors College
Two professional football players joined Clemson University students' calls to remove the name of John C. Calhoun, a United States vice president during the early 19th century, from the university's honors college due to Calhoun's legacy as a slave owner and proponent of slavery. Clemson is built on the land that used to be Calhoun's plantation, where he enslaved 70 to 80 black people, according to the university's website. Reclaim and Rename, a student-led group pushing for university leaders to rename the college, "revived" the campaign, the Greenville News reported. The group's effort is being reignited as student activism against racial injustice continues in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by Minneapolis police. A petition on started by Reclaim and Rename urges the university to follow others that have removed the names of notorious slave owners, including Calhoun himself, from campus buildings. Deandre Hopkins, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals and a former Clemson football player, and Deshaun Watson, quarterback for the Houston Texans, who led the Tigers to a national championship in 2016, took to Twitter and Instagram to show support for Reclaim and Rename and share the group's petition, which had more than 13,500 signatures as of June 9.
The Big Ten's New Boss Wants Players Talking About Big Issues
The scene in Indianapolis in March -- Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren grimly explaining why the coronavirus had prompted the abrupt cancellation of the league's basketball tournament -- was hardly how he envisioned his first year running one of the mightiest conferences in college sports. But in his first six months alone at the Big Ten's helm, Warren, a lawyer and the first black leader of a Power Five conference, has confronted a public health crisis with no precedent in American athletics. Now, he is also grappling with the civil unrest that has roiled the nation after the death of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis. On Monday, he announced the creation of a Big Ten Conference Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition. Before Warren moved to the Big Ten, he was the chief operating officer for the N.F.L.'s Minnesota Vikings and played college basketball at Pennsylvania and Grand Canyon.
Will College Athletics Survive? Should They?
As athletic directors and presidents look to the fall, major uncertainty stares back. Will students be on campus? Will the virus be contained? If we have football games, should fans attend? As Covid-19 decimates university resources, many leaders are wondering what changes they should make to athletic programs, or if they should have sports at all. Whatever changes leaders make to college athletics, a vast enterprise will be affected. Sports provide educational opportunities to hundreds of thousands of students every year, bring large communities together, and require huge expenditures on campuses, more than $18 billion in 2018. Significant issues have arisen with growth, including the financial drain on university budgets, academic abuse and recruiting scandals, and questions of exploitation of the athletes themselves. The positive impact of organized sports is well documented, as more than eight out of 10 athletes will graduate from college, and more than 35 percent earn postgraduate degrees. College athletes are more likely to have higher incomes, life satisfaction, and overall engagement.

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