Friday, June 26, 2020   
Nearly-complete Partnership School to be ready for students in August
Now that the Partnership School is almost finished and ready to open, it's "a huge relief" for Eddie Peasant, the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District superintendent. The new building on the Mississippi State University campus still has some work left to be done, from assembling the library shelves to laying the grass turf on the field outside, but construction meetings are a thing of the past. The school will be ready to teach SOCSD sixth and seventh graders in August, even though the district's plans to reopen buildings are fluid as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Peasant said. The school will also serve as a training lab for MSU's College of Education, allowing MSU students to observe classroom teaching and making university faculty a resource for SOCSD teachers and administrators. The middle school classrooms have desks outside where MSU students will sit and observe, and teachers can block the younger students' view of their observers if need be.
Expert insights into the growth of global aquaculture
A range of insights into the growth of global aquaculture, including predictions for how the sector will develop have been published this week, as part of the 50th anniversary of the World Aquaculture Society. Published in the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society, under the title Achieving Sustainable Aquaculture: Historical and Current Perspectives and Future Needs and Challenges, the review contains a collection of essays from some of the brightest minds in the sector. "This unique collection of published essays is the product of information based on historical, current, and future perspectives provided by individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to the understanding of and progress in the global aquaculture sector. It should serve as a guiding blueprint to meet the challenges of the journey to the goal of sustainable global aquaculture," said Dr Lou D'Abramo, professor emeritus at Mississippi State University. "The results are much more than what I ever envisioned when I decided to guide this effort and make it a reality."
OCH responds to state health officer's COVID-19 concerns
OCH Regional Medical Center CEO Jim Jackson weighed in Wednesday following comments made by Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs Tuesday. Dobbs said the state was losing its battle with COVID-19, and that he expected a crisis by fall, with it being impossible to get a hospital bed or ventilator for reasons other than the novel coronavirus. Dobbs was also critical of communities throughout the state for not enforcing social distancing guidelines and of citizens for being lax about covering their faces in public. "Our capacity to treat positive COVID patients is currently at 15 beds," Jackson said. "Our daily average census for positive COVID patients fluctuates between eight and 12 per day. The average length of stay for one COVID patient is around 15 days, but that too will change due to the patient's circumstances."
Coronavirus cases surge in Mississippi; doctors give sobering outlook
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Health are urging people to wear facial masks and social distance after releasing the state's highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. The Health Department on Thursday reported 1,092 cases of the coronavirus and 532 patients hospitalized with the virus, prompting State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs to warn of an overburdened health care system. "It's not just the cases. We have seen the highest number of hospitalized patients. I'm terrified we will overwhelm the health care system, the hospitals, the ICUs. Not in the fall, I'm talking about this week," he said. Dobbs also laid out a bleak vision of what the new record numbers mean for the summer months and into the fall, saying the surge is just the beginning if residents don't take it more seriously. "If we're not careful, Mississippi will look like New York," Dobbs said. He stressed that Mississippians, and particularly younger residents ages 18 to 29, need to follow Gov. Tate Reeves' executive orders to maintain social distancing requirements.
'If we're not careful, Mississippi is gonna look like New York,' health officials warn
A record number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday, which shattered the previous day's record by 78.7%, prompted the state's top health officers to hold an impromptu news conference broadcast on Facebook Live. "The truth is, there's a lot of COVID out there," State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. "It's going to kill a lot of people and it's going to over-stress our health care system. That's the reality." The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,092 new coronavirus cases Thursday, up from a record 611 on Wednesday. A total of 1,016 people have died. Dobbs said he had been worried only a few weeks ago about hospitals being overcrowded in the fall because of a coronavirus resurgence. Now, he's concerned the healthcare system might be overrun next week. Gov. Tate Reeves also held a last-minute press conference after Dobbs and Byers, echoing what they said. Cases are rising fastest among 18- to 29-year-olds. "They're in places like Oxford, they're in places like DeSoto County, they're in places like the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Reeves said, "where there are a lot of young people who are going out, they're partying, they're having a great time, and they're getting sick."
As Virus Surges, Younger People Account for 'Disturbing' Number of Cases
Younger people are making up a growing percentage of new coronavirus cases in cities and states where the virus is now surging, a trend that has alarmed public health officials and prompted renewed pleas for masks and social distancing. "What is clear is that the proportion of people who are younger appears to have dramatically changed," said Joseph McCormick, a professor of epidemiology at UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville. "It's really quite disturbing." The pattern is drawing notice from mayors, governors and public health officials, and comes as a worrisome sign for cities and institutions as they look to the fall. The rise in cases among younger people could complicate the plans of leaders who are eager to open schools and universities, resume athletic events and return to normal life and a fully functioning economy. The United States recorded 36,975 new cases on Wednesday, a new high point in daily cases as the country confronted a new stage of the crisis two months after the previous high in late April. The resurgence is most immediately threatening states that reopened relatively early in the South and the West.
CDC: COVID-19 cases may be 10 times higher than reported
The number of cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 may be 10 times higher than what has been reported, according to a top federal health official. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said Thursday that nationwide serological testing, or testing for antibodies, shows that the rate of infection, including from asymptomatic cases, is much higher than the confirmed number of diagnosed illnesses. "Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually are 10 other infections," Redfield said on a call with reporters. That would mean the number of cases of the coronavirus causing a worldwide pandemic tops 20 million in the United States. There are currently 2.3 million reported cases in the U.S. Still, he said a "significant majority" of people in the U.S. -- possibly more than 90 percent of the population -- remain susceptible to the virus. Redfield urged people to continue social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands to mitigate the spread of the virus. "This outbreak is not over. This pandemic is not over. The most powerful tool that we have, the most powerful one, is social distancing," he said.
Lawmakers again delay vote to change state flag but plan to stay in Jackson through the weekend
Legislative leaders opted on Thursday to delay a vote to change the state flag, which contains the Confederate battle emblem, but told lawmakers they would continue working through the weekend, which is longer than initially anticipated. Early this week, lawmakers indicated they planned to adjourn the regular session on Friday, making the issue of the state flag more urgent. But they now plan to meet longer, most likely through the weekend and into next week. The delay again leaves no answer to the question on everyone's mind: "When, if at all, will legislators vote to change the state flag?" Speaker Philip Gunn in the House and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in the Senate can bring up a bill to change the state flag at their discretion. Various sources have confirmed to Mississippi Today that both sides are close to having the necessary votes -- within "one or two votes" in both chambers, some said, and others indicated leaders had enough votes in the House -- though it's a fluid situation.
Mississippi GOP chairman: Now is the time to change the state flag
Although the party proper hasn't taken a stance on changing the state flag, the chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party says it's time. "My personal view is that now is the time for Mississippi to retire its current flag and adopt a flag that unifies all Mississippians," state Republican Party Chairman Lucien Smith said in a statement Wednesday. His statement comes as GOP legislative leaders try to whip votes in their Republican supermajority to change the flag and remove its controversial Confederate battle emblem. It's a heavy lift -- changing the flag this late in a legislative session would require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers. Many Republican lawmakers oppose changing the flag, particularly without a popular vote on the issue. Some who want the Legislature to change it fear a backlash from their constituents.
Former Gov. Phil Bryant: Remove rebel emblem from state flag
Mississippi legislators were under increasing pressure Thursday to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, amid national protests over racial injustice and urging from sports leagues and leaders in business, religion and education. A Republican former governor, Phil Bryant, on Thursday advocated replacing the Confederate symbol with another flag design. "I was proud as Governor to add 'In God We Trust' to the State Seal," Bryant wrote on Twitter. "It will make a great Mississippi State Flag." Bryant left office in January after eight years as governor and four before that as lieutenant governor -- and he never pushed the politically volatile issue of changing the flag during his time in office. Mississippi is the last state with a flag that includes the emblem that many see as racist.
Sen. Roger Wicker on state flag: 'Difficult but necessary change'
Mississippi Republican Senator Roger Wicker is included growing list of people calling for a new state flag. Wicker tweeted his support for adopting a "new and unifying flag." Wicker is also pushing for a design with the state seal on it, something several lawmakers have begun pushing for in the wake of growing pressure to remove the current flag. Wicker also called for the state flag to be changed back in 2015.
Pro-flag Sen. Chris McDaniel says lawmakers are 'holding the line' on flag vote
A pro-flag lawmaker said Thursday morning that there are not enough votes in the Legislature to change the Mississippi flag -- and he encouraged his fellow lawmakers to continue "holding the line." Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, posted a video to Facebook Thursday morning, saying the Legislature is under "immense" pressure to hold a vote on the flag, which contains the Confederate battle flag. The Legislature voted to adopt the flag in 1894, nearly three decades after the end of the Civil War. Before lawmakers can vote to change the flag, they need to secure a two-thirds majority to suspend the rules of the Legislature. "They do not have the two-thirds votes they need to do that just yet," McDaniel said in the video. "We are holding the line, and we don't anticipate having many or any of our senators move away from that line."
'It's quite late to do that': Many say Harry Sanders' apology for racist remarks ineffective
Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders says he's sorry for comments he made more than a week ago saying Blacks have been "dependent" since slavery and that they are the only ethnicity that has not assimilated into American society. In a letter he delivered to The Dispatch Wednesday, Sanders, who represents District 1, called the comments "thoughtless" and "carelessly spoken" and apologized for the negative impact they've had on the community. But many local leaders, some of whom have called for his resignation, told The Dispatch the apology came too late and would not satisfy the local community. Sanders made the racist comments to a Dispatch reporter on June 15, after voting with the white majority 3-2 to leave a Confederate monument in front of the Lowndes County Courthouse. In a departure from his attitude last week, Sanders, who previously stood by his remarks and refused to comment on whether he would apologize, said in the Wednesday letter he is sorry for the pain he caused the community.
President Trump wants federal hiring to focus on skills over degrees
President Donald Trump is preparing to direct the federal government to overhaul its hiring to prioritize a job applicant's skills over a college degree, administration and industry officials say. Trump is set to sign an executive order Friday outlining a new direction for the nation's largest employer during a meeting of the board that advises the administration on worker policy. Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser, is co-chair of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board and has worked on improving job training to meet employers' changing needs. The federal government is the nation's largest employer with 2.1 million civilian workers, excluding postal service employees. Ivanka Trump predicted the change in federal government hiring would create a more inclusive and talented workforce. She encouraged the private sector to follow the administration's lead. At the meeting, the workforce advisory board is also expected to announce details of a private-sector ad campaign led by Apple, IBM and the nonprofit Ad Council to promote alternate pathways to education.
Trump administration urges Supreme Court to end Affordable Care Act amid coronavirus pandemic
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The administration's latest high court filing came the same day the government reported that close to half a million people who lost their health insurance amid the economic shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 have gotten coverage through The administration's legal brief makes no mention of the virus. Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage and protections for people with preexisting health conditions also would be put at risk if the court agrees with the administration in a case that won't be heard before the fall. Thursday's report from the government showed that about 487,000 people signed up with after losing their workplace coverage this year. That's an increase of 46% from the same time period last year.
Jones College announces plans for Fall 2020 semester
Jones College has recently put into place several changes and plans for operation during the COVID-19 pandemic for the Fall 2020 semester. The College Board of Trustees at Jones College has approved a new modified academic calendar to protect students and employees from the impact of a possible fall wave of COVID-19. JC will start its fall semester early on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, and classes will finish before Thanksgiving, on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. "It is of the utmost importance to protect our students, employees and visitors at Jones College to the best of our abilities," said JC President, Dr. Jesse Smith. "We believe that by adapting our 2020-2021 Academic Calendar to being and end earlier than is traditional, we are providing the best option possible for on-campus learning and living." Daily health checks will be required for all students, employees and visitors, and they will involve daily temperature readings and a brief health questionnaire. A campus-related contact screening will be required for those impacted by COVID-19. Also, individuals will be asked to resist community meeting spaces.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Stands Firm On Coronavirus Aid To Private School Students
In a new rule announced Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos signaled she is standing firm on her intention to reroute millions of dollars in coronavirus aid money to K-12 private school students. The CARES Act rescue package included more than $13 billion to help public schools cover pandemic-related costs. The move comes nearly two months after the Education Department issued controversial guidance, suggesting that private schools should benefit from a representative share of the emergency aid. Lawmakers from both parties countered that the aid was intended to be distributed based on how many vulnerable, low-income students a district serves. While that guidance was nonbinding, Thursday's rule is enforceable by law. Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association said in a statement, "AASA is deeply disappointed in U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' doubling down on her flawed guidance." He called the new rule "an opportunistic money grab, using the pandemic environment to advance the privatization agenda."
U. of Alabama to require masks at summer graduation
The University of Alabama will require graduates and their guests to wear a mask during joint spring and summer commencement ceremonies. The mask requirement is one of several coronavirus precautions the university has planned to make graduation exercises as safe as possible, according to a Wednesday news release. To limit the number of graduates at each ceremony to 530, nine ceremonies have been planned between Friday, July 31 and Sunday, Aug. 2 at Coleman Coliseum. Each graduate will be issued four tickets for guests who must arrive and sit together. Ushers will escort groups to their seats and they'll be required to remain seated until instructed to exit, according to the release. Graduates and their guests are encouraged to bring their own mask. The coliseum will be cleaned between each ceremony and there will be sanitizing stations placed throughout the building. Spring graduates, who were unable to hold graduation exercises because of coronavirus restrictions, have been invited to participate in the summer commencement.
Alabama report details graduates' employment, shows workforce needs
Five years after they graduated in 2013, 51% of Alabama public university bachelor's degree recipients were employed in the state, according to a new report. For those graduates, fields of study with the highest Alabama employment rates after five years were: education, public administration and social services, health professions, mathematics and statistics, computer and information sciences and protective services. The 2020 Alabama Commission on Higher Education Employment Outcomes Report is the first statewide study of how Alabama graduates, from certificate holders to those with doctoral degrees, are faring in the workforce. The report comes as Alabama has a set goal of 500,000 newly trained or educated workers by 2025. Those 2013 bachelor's degree holders employed in Alabama were earning $48,215 on average five years after graduation. The outcomes report also confirms that non-resident students are not likely to stay in Alabama once they've gotten their degrees.
UGA faculty moms petition for stronger COVID protections
An online petition by University of Georgia faculty mothers says the university's planning for a return to in-person learning this fall does not do enough to protect students and UGA workers or their families. Begun by the UGA Women's Caucus two weeks ago, the petition had garnered more than 2,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, and is one of several now circulating that call on the university and other Georgia public colleges to implement stronger measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when classes resume in August. The petition, "UGA: Protect staff, faculty, and students," calls on the university to require face masks except when people are alone behind closed doors or partitions or when someone delivers a lecture with social distancing. One of the petitioners, UGA history professor Cindy Hahamovitch, said in an email the faculty mothers who created the petition are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic's disproportionate risks to students, staff and faculty of color and their families as well as "the university administration's total silence on the difficulties for parents of coming into work if schools and daycare close."
The U. of South Carolina Wants Its Share of Black Students to Mirror the Black Population in the State. There's a Long Way to Go.
The president of the University of South Carolina at Columbia, as part of a commitment to a recently approved strategic plan, pledged to increase the number of African American students enrolled at the flagship institution. What's the goal? For the share of Black students at the university to be "approaching" the share of Black residents in the state -- about 27 percent -- by 2025, said Robert L. Caslen, during a virtual town hall for students and families early this week. Black students make up 9.5 percent of undergraduate enrollment at South Carolina now. Black students are "hugely underrepresented," said Caslen during the town hall, where improving the institution's low numbers of African American faculty was also discussed as part of diversity and inclusion efforts underway. "That has to be looked at, and that has to be addressed." Federal data shows that at many flagships, particularly in Southern states, the gap between the share of Black students and the share of Black people in the state is a wide one.
Black Lives Matter founders tell UF students: stand up for your Black peers
Thousands have protested police and racial violence. About 500 UF students and staff joined the conversation with the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. During an hour-long virtual event hosted on Microsoft Teams Thursday night, Black Lives Matter founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi talked about LGBTQ+ leaders at the forefront of their movement and the importance of students standing up for their Black peers. Accent Speakers Bureau, UF Black Student Union and UF Pride Student Union organized the appearance. Anyone with a UF email was able to register for the event by noon Thursday. In response to UF students' questions about how they can assist the BLM movement, Tometi said students need to support Black people on campus, and they need to ensure that the school system is affirming the lives of Black people. For some colleges, fighting injustice might require kicking law enforcement off campus, ensuring more scholarships or reimagining tuition, she said. Each campus is different, she said, and she doesn't know what UF will need to do to make sure the campus is safe for Black people.
Texas A&M delays return of all employees to campus, citing surge in COVID-19 cases
Texas A&M University is delaying the return of all of its employees to campus, citing the surge in COVID-19 cases. The university had planned a three-phased approach for employees to return to campus. Initially, 25% of employees returned to campus, with 50% of employees returning June 1. The third phase, which was set to begin July 1, would have allowed all employees to return to campus. In an email sent to employees Wednesday, the university's vice president for the division of human resources and organizational development said the next phase of the plan has been suspended until July 20. "As before, we will continue to monitor what is happening and adjust this plan accordingly," the email states. Fall semester classes are set to begin Aug. 19, with freshmen in the Corps of Cadets reporting to campus Aug. 11.
Several U. of Missouri custodians test positive for COVID
Several custodial employees of the University of Missouri have tested positive for COVID-19 and their fellow operations employees, already facing job outsourcing, are upset that they haven't heard anything about it from campus officials. Union President Carl Baysinger of Laborers' Local 955 said the employees raised their concerns in a union meeting this week. He said five custodial employees are sick with the disease caused by the coronavirus. "There was a couple who had heard about it, and said there were about five people but they did not know where, actually, what location they were working out of," Baysinger said. As part of its phased reopening, about 3,000 people are now working on campus and buildings such as residence halls that have been shut for many weeks are being reopened to prepare them for students in the fall, MU spokesman Christian Basi said. The university works closely with the health department to provide information about work assignments and potential contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus who has been on campus while possibly infectious, Basi said.
U. of Missouri Faculty Council opposes job outsourcing, discusses fall plans, Jefferson statue
The University of Missouri Faculty Council approved a resolution opposing the outsourcing of custodial and landscaping jobs Thursday, standing with nearly 1,000 students, staff and faculty who signed a letter opposing the potential plan by the university. The council also discussed several issues surrounding the return of students to campus this fall as the semester draws closer. Many of the specifics behind MU's fall semester plan have not been made public. The university plans to release details next week, MU spokesperson Liz McCune said. In-person classes are scheduled to resume Aug. 24. How class attendance will be handled is still uncertain, said Academic Affairs Committee Chair Daniel Cohen, and it "hasn't been properly addressed by administration." State requirements on how much faculty and students must interact complicate attendance policy, and any decisions made on the matter also have implications for financial aid and various groups of students, he said.
EPA gives up on barring grantees from science advisory panels
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not fight a judge's February decision to throw out its ban on advisory committee service by agency grant recipients, meaning the heavily litigated 2017 policy is legally dead for now. In a carefully couched statement released late yesterday, agency lawyers said they would not appeal the opinion by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, which found that EPA had failed to provide a "reasoned explanation" for the ban (Greenwire, 11 February). While not ruling out a future attempt to revive the prohibition, EPA would do so only through a supplemental ethics regulation with a signoff from the Office of Government Ethics, the statement said. Three years ago, by contrast, then-Administrator Scott Pruitt imposed the ban with no advance notice or a chance for the public to first weigh in. While the return to the pre-2017 status quo is good news, "the reality is that many distinguished scientists were dismissed from EPA's advisory committees because of this unlawful directive," said NRDC attorney Vivian Wang in a prepared statement.
Washington and Lee University professors discuss name change and removal of all references to the Confederacy
Washington and Lee University faculty discussed a resolution to remove all references to the Confederacy from the campus of the small liberal arts college in Lexington as well as to the school's name. No action was taken during the virtual meeting Wednesday evening. But the more than 100 undergraduate and law school professors who attended the meeting plan to send a formal request to the school's president and its Board of Trustees by the end of the month. "Tonight there was a conversation that started with the name Lee and where faculty stand on the decision to dissociate ourselves from Lee," said Jim Casey, an alum and an associate professor of economics who organized the meeting. The school was named for George Washington, an early benefactor, and Robert E. Lee., the former Confederate general and president of the university who is buried in a chapel at the heart of campus.

Mississippi State coach Nikki McCray-Penson: Confederate emblem a symbol of hatred, racism and oppression
Nikki McCray-Penson didn't mince words talking about the Mississippi state flag. The first-year Mississippi State women's basketball coach said she feels the Confederate emblem used on Mississippi's flag is a symbol of racism, violence and oppression. She grew up and went to college in Tennessee, where she'd see the flag and have to pretend it didn't "scream hate" and hurt her "to her core." Now that she's in Mississippi, she wants to see that emblem removed from Mississippi's state flag. "As a black woman coaching at one of the most diverse universities in the country, I look forward to seeing change that unites us and accurately represents our great community," McCray-Penson said at the Mississippi Capitol on Thursday. "Changing the flag is an important step toward inclusivity and an end to racial injustice. This is a moment in our society for us to reassess values and do the right thing by removing this symbol of hatred."
'It screams hate' -- colleges coaches urge lawmakers to change state flag
Coaches and athletic directors from every public college and university in the state travelled to the Capitol on Thursday morning to deliver a clear message to legislators: It's time to change the state flag, which features the Confederate battle emblem. "I know firsthand what it feels like to see the Confederate flag and pretend it doesn't have a racist, violent or oppressive overtone. It screams hate," Nikki McCray-Penson, head women's basketball coach at Mississippi State University. "There is no place in our society for a symbol of discrimination, hatred and oppression." McCray was part of a group of roughly 30 coaches and athletic directors, including University of Mississippi head football coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach, who participated in a press conference to share their beliefs about how the flag is harming the state. All coaches are now directly affected by state flag, as the NCAA, SEC and Conference USA have all respectively banned all postseason college athletics events from being hosted in Mississippi until the flag changes.
University coaches and administrators lobby for flag change
Forty-six coaches and athletic directors from across the state traveled to Jackson on Thursday to lobby for the changing of the state flag. All eight of Mississippi's public universities were represented at a press conference. That includes Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Delta State, Alcorn State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and the Mississippi University of Women. The reason for the press conference was to urge state government to remove the confederate battle symbol from the state flag. This followed the NCAA, SEC, and C-USA's rulings last week which stated that no conference championships and no postseason events would be held in Mississippi until the state flag is changed. While 13 representatives from Ole Miss and Mississippi State traveled to Jackson, Ole Miss men's basketball coach Kermit Davis and Mississippi State women's basketball coach Nikki McCray-Penson each gave statements and answered questions. "Mississippi State University's mission of diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity is hampered by this symbol of hatred," McCray-Penson said.
Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach says the flag doesn't unify the state
Coaches and administrators from Mississippi's eight public universities walked through the doors of the state Capitol building Thursday morning for a news conference in an effort to have Mississippi's state flag changed. Among those in attendance were Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach, University of Mississippi football coach Lane Kiffin as well as representatives from Southern Miss, Jackson State, Alcorn State, Mississippi Valley State, Delta State and Mississippi University for Women. The point of contention: the emblem of the Confederate battle flag on the left side of Mississippi's state flag. Leach told media after the press conference that the flag is important and that is why he and other coaches made the trip to Jackson. "The purpose of the state flag is to unify the state," he said. "Right now, this flag does not do that. Everybody needs to appreciate the flag and it needs to unify people and they need to be thrilled to be a part of it."
Mississippi State, Ole Miss administrators lobby Legislature to change state flag
Mississippi State women's basketball coach Nikki McCray-Penson can still picture the Black woman clambering up the flagpole outside the South Carolina statehouse to remove the Confederate battle emblem. Recalling a moment that helped spark removal of the rebel flag from South Carolina governmental buildings, McCray-Penson was again thrust into the forefront of the Confederate flag debate, this time before the Mississippi Legislature. McCray-Penson -- joined by MSU Athletic Director John Cohen, football coach Mike Leach, baseball coach Chris Lemonis, men's basketball coach Ben Howland and softball coach Samantha Ricketts, among other athletic department officials from schools across the state -- spent three hours weaving through the chambers of legislators throughout the capitol building, lobbying for the removal of the Confederate iconography on the Mississippi state flag. "I know for me personally, it just warmed my heart because South Carolina was moving forward," she told The Dispatch of her experiences in Columbia. "And it changed the landscape of our team and the players that we were able to recruit. As you know, we became national champions. South Carolina became more attractive."
Many coaches, but just one message: It's time for Mississippi to change its state flag.
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: One was a middle-aged white man, born and raised in Mississippi. One was a much younger African-American woman, who has lived in Mississippi for only weeks. One, a Mississippi State graduate, represented Ole Miss, the other, a Tennessee alum, represented Mississippi State. But both Kermit Davis, Jr, the man, and Nikki McCray-Pinson, the woman, spoke eloquently and delivered the same message Thursday morning in the Capitol rotunda: Change the Mississippi flag. Now. Let's move ahead. Behind the chosen speakers, McCray-Pinson and Davis, stood at least 25 coaches and sports administrators representing all the state-supported universities, unanimous in their belief Mississippi needs a new flag to represent all Mississippians. ... House Speaker Philip Gunn took the podium after the coaches and spoke loudly and with emotion about the need for changing the flag. "This entire state is screaming for change," Gunn said. "This is an issue that needs to be resolved and resolved quickly. The longer it goes, the more it festers and the harder it's going to be later on. The image of our state is at stake here, ladies and gentleman. The nation is watching."
Lane Kiffin thinks Ole Miss, Mississippi State's joint effort to change flag is 'great for the rivalry'
Thursday mattered more than any rivalry ever will. Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin was one of 46 coaches from eight Mississippi universities who converged on the state Capitol on Thursday in an attempt to lobby legislators to remove the Confederate emblem from Mississippi's flag. Speaking to reporters after the event in a video posted by Sports Talk Mississippi, Kiffin applauded everyone in attendance for standing in favor of unity and justice. Even Mike Leach and his rivals from Mississippi State. "I talked to (Leach) on the phone (Wednesday) about coming here," Kiffin said. "I think it's great for the rivalry, but I think it's great to see people coming together for one united cause that's very important." And on Thursday, Kiffin reiterated his stance that he supports a change to the state flag in solidarity with his players and because of what the connotations of the flag could mean for his program's future.
College athletes using platform to address social issues
Deuce McAllister grew up in Mississippi and was well aware of the racial history of Ole Miss when he decided to play football there in the late 1990s. Even so, he never got used to seeing the Confederate battle emblem on game day. "I'm playing with my brothers, my teammates," said McAllister, who is Black. "You look up in the stands, you hear the cheers and the yells, but that's what you see. "Inside, that doesn't make you feel very good." The former running back -- who was also a two-time Pro Bowl selection with the New Orleans Saints -- was part of the Rebels program in 1997 when a group of student-athletes and coaches brought their concerns about the Confederate flag to school administrators. Those conversations were part of the reason the school banned sticks, which largely stopped people from waving the flag at games. More than 20 years later, McAllister embraces how college athletes across the country are actively using their voice and platforms to advocate for social change. They have a powerful avenue that McAllister and his peers didn't: Social media.
Tennessee projects $10.1M dip in athletics revenue for 2020-21 fiscal year
The Tennessee athletic department is budgeting for a $10.1 million decrease in revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year as compared to its budget for the previous year, according to agenda materials for this week's UT Board of Trustees meetings. A projected dip in revenue is to be expected given the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the department's budget indicates that Tennessee expects a football season to happen, and it anticipates having fans in the stands, albeit fewer than last season. The balanced budget projects $129.5 million in revenues and expenses. The budget was set to be presented when the board convened Thursday and Friday. While some schools outside of the SEC have announced plans to limit attendance at football games this season because of the pandemic, Vols athletics director Phillip Fulmer has said that UT plans to have no capacity restrictions at Neyland Stadium. But the school is probably still a few weeks away from an official decision on any potential capacity limits.
Fact or Fiction: Do Clemson, LSU have an edge from summer COVID-19 outbreak?
With some college football teams already seeing significant numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, questions linger about the virus' looming impact on the upcoming 2020 season. Clemson had 23 football players test positive. Kansas State paused voluntary workouts for two weeks after 14 players tested positive. Thirteen Texas Longhorn football players have been infected. Several Alabama football players have tested positive. LSU placed 30 players into quarantine after an untold amount tested positive, according to Sports Illustrated. After the Clemson news broke, 247Sports founder and CEO Shannon Terry tweeted the reply: "probably a good thing to test positive at this moment in the calendar. Moving Clemson to my favorite to win it all." That last part was likely in jest, but there are those in the coaching community who have shared similar beliefs with If the cases have to happen, some say, it is better for them to happen now than in August or September, which could result in missed games. Does a program like Clemson actually have an edge given how many have already tested positive? To separate fact from fiction, reached out to three infectious disease experts and epidemiologists to answer that question and more.
Initiative will give UF athletes platform
As part of the NCAA's push to highlight students promoting social change, the University Athletic Association is giving Gators student-athletes a platform to address such issues. Florida's "Listen, Learn & Act" initiative, created by UF executive associate athletic director Lynda Tealer, will feature multiple Gators teams, staff and UAA employees engaging in conversations regarding racism and social injustice. The initiative currently features double-digit UAA staff members, with plans to add more in the future. Tealer envisions multiple panels of discussions, likely to feature a mix of UF coaches and student-athletes across various sports. The debut session, held June 16, prominently featured Florida's men's basketball team and coaching staff, in addition to more than 170 UAA staff members listening in on the call. The nearly hour-long conversation, which was made available online shortly after the webinar, delved into sensitive yet pertinent matters such as the Black Lives Matter movement, institutional racism, microaggressions and more.
What colleges in the South are doing -- and not doing -- for athletes on Election Day
After the NCAA recommended earlier this month that schools mark Nov. 3 as a day off from athletic activities so athletes can vote more easily on Election Day, Austin Peay moved swiftly to clear athletes' calendars for the day. "Some things are bigger than a practice," Austin Peay athletics director Gerald Harrison said of his school's decision to give athletes the day off. Belmont and Grambling State also cleared athletes' calendars for the first Tuesday in November. Those schools join the likes of Georgia Tech and institutions within the Big Sky and America East conferences in pledging to not have practices or competitions on Election Day. Elsewhere, many schools are taking action to help athletes vote, including helping them register to vote, but few have committed to making Nov. 3 a day off from mandatory athletic activity. "We are currently discussing various approaches to encouraging our student-athletes to participate in the voting process," Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said in an email. "There is still a lot to be determined relative to Nov. 3, including sport-specific schedules and what, if any, measures are taken at the conference level. We have already begun internal efforts to assist student-athletes with voter registration."
Colleges Weigh Scrapping Football Season in Threat to a Cash Cow
Colleges across the U.S. are assessing the spread of Covid-19 to determine whether students should return to campus in the fall, and many schools must also decide whether it's safe to resume football, a cash cow for some big schools and for the surrounding college towns. That determination will have a financial impact on athletic departments for years to come, said Willis Jones, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Kentucky. "Schools will put off that decision until they have absolutely no other choice," said Jones, who researches intercollegiate athletics. "Once there is one that's brave enough and says 'We can't do this and still protect our student athletes,' I think other schools will follow." Schools that bring in the largest revenue from football that responded to Bloomberg's questions, including the University of Notre Dame and the University of Georgia, are still making decisions and planning for a season. For universities deciding how to proceed, there is at least some precedent this time, unlike three months ago when administrators faced a similar challenge as the virus spread in the U.S.

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