Tuesday, July 28, 2020   
Baseball architect talks of 'bittersweet' unveiling of most recent design
Major League Baseball's opening day last week was bittersweet for Mississippi State University graduate Janet Marie Smith. Smith, a baseball architect that has enjoyed nearly a five-decade long career, now serves as the senior vice president for Planning and Development with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers opened their season with an 8-1 nationally televised win against arch rival San Francisco on ESPN as the league kicked off its truncated 60-game schedule on Thursday. Throughout the broadcast, Smith's latest project, a new center field plaza that was part of an estimated $100 million worth of stadium renovations this offseason, was shown and given acclaim from announcers. Yet, no fans were there to enjoy it in person. The plaza essentially creates a new front door to Dodger Stadium, Smith told Starkville Rotary Club Monday afternoon virtually from Los Angeles. "Like everyone else in March, we got the call that our world was shutting down. But construction never had to stop in California, so we lumbered to the finish line," said Smith, a Jackson native recently inducted to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. "Sadly, it's a bittersweet finish because fans can't come in to enjoy this." Smith also lauded her time at Mississippi State.
Start Of Fall Semester Serves As Good News For Those In Rental Industry
Mississippi State University is scheduled to return to campus to begin the fall semester on August 17th. This is not only good news for the university, but also for those in the rental industry. Linley Properties, LLC in Starkville said it's seeing an increase in students looking for housing. In fact, owner Jimmy Linley said a majority of the rentals he owns have already been filled. Linley admits, he was surprised to see the large number of student renters due to the pandemic. The property owner said they're cleaning and sanitizing all buildings before students return next month. "Right now we are full," said Linley. "We have some commercial property and the commercial property has done well, and it's staying pretty full, but now there are a lot of empty apartments around and I feel for those folks. I feel for everybody that this is affecting because it's just killed some people."
Mississippi Development Bank -- Moody's assigns A1 to City of Starkville, MS GO Bonds
Moody's Investors Service has assigned an A1 rating to the City of Starkville's Special Obligation Bonds, Series 2020B (Starkville, Mississippi, Parks and Recreation General Obligation Bond Project). The bonds have an expected par value of $9.5 million. Moody's maintains an A1 rating on the city's outstanding GO bonds. The A1 rating assignment reflects the city's moderately sized but growing economy inclusive of an expanding tax base and below average resident wealth indicators. The city also benefits from the institutional presence of Mississippi State University (Aa2 stable). The rating is also driven by the city's narrower than average but consistent reserves that we anticipate will remain stable through fiscal 2020. The city's pension costs are elevated though the debt burden is manageable. Impacts to Mississippi State University, which is a key institutional presence in the city, will be a key component to our assessment our view of the city's economy and recovery.
After Reopening, Coronavirus-Hit States Chart Their Own Paths to Close Up Again
States are relying on their own public-health indicators when deciding whether to reclose portions of their economies to try to stop rising coronavirus infections that many attribute to the reopening of shops, bars and restaurants. In Mississippi, state leaders said they imposed restrictions on counties that had more than 500 new cases per 100,000 residents or more than 200 new cases in the last 14 days. As they weigh whether or not to reimpose bans on large gatherings and restaurant dining, states are largely going at it alone -- much as they did during the lifting of restrictions earlier in the summer. Mississippi has mandated that people in 29 of its 82 counties wear masks in public and limit the size of their social gatherings, based on rising new case numbers. "We're not just making this up as we go along," Gov. Tate Reeves said at a recent news conference. "We're letting the data drive the decision making."
Gov. Tate Reeves: State mask mandate could discourage Mississippians from wearing masks
Convincing every Mississippian to wear a mask in public is not easy, Gov. Tate Reeves said, and ordering everyone to do so could actually make matters worse. Nine hospitals in the state were without any open ICU beds Monday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter Mississippi, and Reeves has been imploring Mississippians to wear masks while in public. Reeves has ordered mask mandates in some -- but not all -- counties and has said his executive orders regarding social distancing are difficult to enforce. He has put the responsibility on individual Mississippians to make safe decisions. "I know a lot of you think we can snap our finger and all of a sudden 100% of the people will comply and everything will be great," Reeves said at a Monday press conference. But Reeves said the opposite might be true. "If you live in Tishomingo County and there's a statewide mask mandate you can't help but say, 'Well, that's probably for those folks in Hancock County,'" Reeves said. "If you put a statewide mandate, the folks in Hancock County are going to say, 'That's for the folks up in Tishomingo County, they can't possibly be talking about me.'"
Governor on county mask mandate: Supervisors allowed to be 'bad guy' too
Lowndes County supervisors passed a resolution Monday morning asking Gov. Tate Reeves to place the county under tighter restrictions -- including a mask mandate -- to help curb the spread of COVID-19. They did not, however, enact any such restrictions themselves, with some supervisors citing concerns about lawsuits and infringing upon citizens' rights. Reeves told The Dispatch Monday afternoon the state issued its most recent county restrictions last week based on case numbers between June 30 and July 13. Lowndes County did not meet the threshold during that period, he said, but he will examine new data this week to determine if the uptick allows for the county to join others. Meanwhile, Reeves said, the county has every right to implement its own mandate. "There is no law which forbids Lowndes County supervisors from having a mask mandate if that's what they choose to do," he said. "While I appreciate them asking me to do it, they certainly have the ability to be the 'bad guy' too."
Mississippi health officials hesitant to add overflow beds
As intensive care units fill up at hospitals in Mississippi, state health officials are considering opening pop-up facilities to provide more beds for coronavirus patients. However, they say the quality of care at those facilities won't be what people are used to. "If we need sort of a mash-style hundred-bed facility, where we are putting patients, we will take the necessary steps to do that," Gov. Tate Reeves said last week. "Keep in mind, the quality of care in those facilities is not going to be the same level as if you go to a level one facility in Mississippi today." Health officials in Mississippi said they are going to try to find open space in hospitals for additional beds before moving patients elsewhere. The challenges of opening pop-up facilities would be addressing equipment and staffing logistics, among other things.
What's next for school reopening? Governor not impressed with some COVID-19 plans
Gov. Tate Reeves will wait until after July 31 to make any broad rulings on the return of students to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he was clear again Monday that he expects school districts to get creative in their plans for the 2020-21 school year. Madison County, one of the largest school districts in the state, announced last week it will delay the start of full on-campus learning until Sept. 3. Jackson Public Schools, the largest district in the state, plans to conduct only virtual classes for the fall semester. Reeves hasn't indicated what he sees as the ideal plan to submit ahead of the July 31 deadline, but he's been emphatic that the normal route isn't an option. "Some may not let kids back in their schools for a long, long time," Reeves said. "I want to see what every school district does. (School districts) must be willing to innovate, think outside of the box. We can't do things like we've always done. Apathy is the only thing that is off the table at this point. I'll consider anything that slows the spread of the virus and gets us back to a more normal environment."
Dr. Thomas Dobbs on schools reopening: 'It can be done safely'
In an interview with The Roguish Gent, Dr. Thomas Dobbs gave his opinion on if it was safe for children to return to school. "It's such a tough question," Dobbs responded. "I think it can be relatively safe... It can be safe." For a safe return, though, Dobbs said that schools must be regimented in their approach; making sure kids are separated, wearing a mask and have their movements from class to class limited. "Still, kids are gonna get it," Dobbs stated. "I mean, kids are getting it now so it's not like it's not happening. So, it can be done safely." He said the challenges arise by the schools not only needing to have a plan but by also having the discipline to stick to that plan and understanding where the risks are. Dobbs said he also worries that the virus may deprive kids of an education and school experiences. "The kids are in desperate need of getting a good education," Dobbs concluded, "and it's a really hard thing to balance."
School back in session for Corinth School District
A new school year is now underway in Corinth, Mississippi, as the Corinth School District reopened its doors to teachers and students for in-person instruction on Monday. Students and teachers alike were excited to have their first day back in school after an extended summer vacation because of the coronavirus. The schools had been closed since March. Superintendent Lee Childress said although there were some minor negatives, as is to be expected with any school day, teachers and students had a great first day back. The day started with a parade. Though it may have sounded ironic a year ago, according to Childress, getting ready for the first day back at school was like Christmas Eve for some of the kids. "We have seen large numbers of students are showing up today," Childress said. "It's something our community wanted. As you said, there's an excitement in the air that we're returning to school since it's the first time since March."
'Adjusting to the new normal': Corinth School District is the first back to class
As children stepped off of school buses at Corinth Elementary School on Monday morning with faces covered by masks, they walked single file through the front doors and stood six feet apart on spaces marked by dots while waiting to have their temperature checked with a thermal scanner. It's part of the "new normal" routine students will follow and slowly grow accustomed to each day as the district returns to traditional in-person instruction. After the temperature check, all students from Pre-K through fourth grade grabbed a to-go breakfast bag or headed straight to their classroom, where they were greeted by their teacher who they first met last week during a drive-through open house event. There were the normal first-day tears for some as they parted ways with their parents to return to school for the first time in almost five months, but the vast majority seemed happy to be back. Corinth School District is the first in Mississippi, and one of the first in the entire country, to resume in-person instruction five days per week for the 2020-21 school year.
Sheriff, lawmaker call medical marijuana resolution 'unsafe'
A Republican state representative, a sheriff and a Mississippi Board of Health official on Monday urged those who support some form of medical marijuana in Mississippi to vote for the more restrictive of the two proposals that will appear on the ballot in November. Rep. Jill Ford, Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker and Ed Langton of the Mississippi Board of Health are against medical marijuana and said Initiative 65, which earned its place on the ballot by a citizen petition, is dangerous, allows "pot shops" to pop up in the state near schools and churches and increases access for people who will abuse the drug. The three leaders said Alternative 65A, on the other hand, offers more conservative regulations and legislative oversight over where and how much of the drug will be sold in the state, as well as who will be able to obtain it.
Mike Espy, down in Senate polls, turns to young Black leaders for advice
Mike Espy was 32 years old in 1986 when he was elected Mississippi's first Black congressman since Reconstruction. He embodied the young political energy that produced Mississippi activists like Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers, and he immediately became considered one of Washington's most promising political up-and-comers. Now 34 years later, the 66-year-old Democrat is seeking to harness that energy once again in his bid to become the state's first popularly elected Black U.S. senator. To win in November, he'll need to generate a political perfect storm that includes swinging many moderate white voters his way and inspiring historic turnout among Black voters. Digging further into the electoral math, Espy knows he needs young Black voters to turn out in droves. So on Monday night, he hosted a virtual event featuring four of the state's most prominent young Black leaders and asked them the question: "What can my campaign do to get young folks engaged and involved?"
Jim Borsig Hired as Henderson State University's Interim Chancellor
Jim Borsig, Ph.D., begins work Monday as interim chancellor of Henderson State University after the Arkansas Legislative Council approved his contract on Friday. His one-year employment contract includes the understanding that it could be extended to a second year by mutual agreement. Borsig will earn an annual salary of $230,000. Trustees for Henderson and the Arkansas State University System approved a merger agreement and transition plan in 2019. The merger is pending approval from the Higher Learning Commission and action from the Arkansas General Assembly. The target for completing the merger is Jan. 1. Borsig most recently served as president of Mississippi University for Women from 2012-2018, and he has been associate commissioner and interim commissioner of higher education in Mississippi. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College renames Jefferson Davis Campus to Harrison Campus
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has renamed its Jefferson Davis Campus located in Gulfport to Harrison County Campus. MGCCC President Mary S. Graham said in a statement, "On July 22, the MGCCC Board of Trustees designated the Jefferson Davis Campus as the Harrison County Campus as a result of the college's new strategic plan, Excelerate 2030, which specifically addresses reviewing all of the names of MGCCC campuses, locations and facilities to ensure they support and align with the college's mission, vision and values." Kathy McAdams, MGCCC public information coordinator, said that the college is in the process of updating its publications and website to reflect the new name. Jefferson Davis, for whom the campus was named, was the president of the Confederate States and resided at Beauvoir, his post-war home in Gulfport, from 1877-1889.
Wicker, Hyde-Smith, & Palazzo Celebrate $6.67M Grant for Pearl River Community College Workforce Center
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and Representative Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., today celebrated the award of $6,670,007 to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to complete infrastructure work at the Pearl River Community College (PRCC) Phil Bryant Aviation and Aerospace Academy in Kiln. The funds are being made available as part of the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), which provides funding for Gulf Coast states affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. "With world-class facilities like Stennis Space Center and a talented workforce, Hancock County has become a hub for Mississippi's growing aerospace and aviation industries," Wicker said. "The PRCC Aviation and Aerospace Academy will help connect students to rewarding careers and attract new employers to South Mississippi."
Belhaven University offering free master's degrees
Belhaven University announced it will give its traditional students full-tuition scholarships for any of the university's online master's degrees. "In the midst of this dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections, we cannot operate in normal ways and expect a good outcome," said Belhaven University Dr. Roger Parrott. "I'm thrilled we can be the only university in America responding to COVID-19 with such an innovative solution that will propel our students academically and in their future careers." The scholarship is for freshmen, transfers and all returning students who enroll for the fall semester's traditional campus program. Students must also stay enrolled every semester as a full-time, traditional-campus student until they graduate from Belhaven University. The full-tuition scholarship can be used for any of Belhaven University's Online Master's Degrees.
Auburn University postpones spring, summer commencements 'indefinitely'
The combined spring and summer commencement ceremonies planned for Aug. 8 have been postponed "indefinitely," Auburn University announced on Monday afternoon. Concerns on large in-person events and interstate travel restrictions factored into the decision, according to the University. The University clarified that the commencements could still happen at a later date, saying that it "hopes to recognize spring and summer graduates at a future event." "A decision for the University's December 2020 commencement is contingent on pending health and safety protocols, with an announcement to be made by mid-fall," the University said. In place of the ceremonies, the University will be opening campus buildings on Aug. 8 for academic deans to greet and celebrate graduates and families who have already arranged plans to return to Auburn. Graduates will also be allowed photo opportunities in Jordan-Hare Stadium between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. that day. Buildings to be open to visitors include the Auburn Arena, the Auburn University Bookstore, the Student Center and Samford Hall.
Florida faculty call for online semester start
A chorus of faculty from Florida's public universities collectively asked Monday for the fall semester to begin online. In a virtual meeting, members from the United Faculty of Florida, a 20,000-member union that covers faculty at the state's 12 public universities, asked for the state's higher education institutions to start online as COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to spread. "We want to reopen our campuses, but more importantly we want them to remain open in the long term," said Karen Morian, UFF president. The faculty members raised concerns over how many of the university's reopening plans were created weeks ago before the consistent spike in COVID cases in Florida, and recalled the academic disruption in March when in-person classes screeched to a halt, and students were encouraged to return home. An online-only semester, the faculty collectively argued, would allow some continuity for the students versus another mid-semester change, and prevent what they believe is an inevitable COVID spread.
Pressure to move Georgia college courses online, but revenue losses could be high
The University System of Georgia estimates its schools could lose at least $479.3 million in mandatory student fees, housing and dining revenue if it goes all-online this fall, according to a spreadsheet obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the Georgia Open Records Act. The data comes as some students and faculty pressure administrators to conduct all classes online, or offer that option, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as cases have increased in Georgia. The system, which will receive about $2 billion in state funds this fiscal year, saw a more than $300 million loss of revenue during the spring and summer semesters due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Another $479 million revenue decline for the fall semester could be staggering for a college system that also took a 10% funding cut from the General Assembly as part of statewide spending reductions for fiscal 2021 due to the COVID-19 recession. System officials said the campus experience is important in response to questions about its approach to fall learning plans.
International college students face barriers as semester nears
By some estimates, more than 23,000 students from other parts of the world took classes at Georgia's colleges and universities last school year. Experts are bracing for a major decline this school year. The potential enrollment drop worries educators and others because international students, on average, pay more for their tuition, assist in more research and work as teaching assistants. "It seems like student enrollment may be the lowest in years for U.S. universities," said David Bier, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a prominent, Libertarian public policy organization that supports efforts to help international students study here. The decline nationally could be up to 100,000 international students -- five times greater than the decline during the 2018-19 school year -- according to a recent analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy, a policy group that focuses on immigration, trade and other issues.
Texas A&M University System facility to manufacture potential COVID-19 vaccine
The U.S. government announced Monday afternoon that a potential COVID-19 vaccine will be manufactured in Brazos County. A federal task order reserves, at a $265 million price tag, production capacity at the Texas A&M University System Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing through the end of 2021. FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, Texas, owns and operates CIADM's three facilities as a Texas A&M System subcontractor. FUJIFILM is slated to use one of the facilities to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine candidate of Novavax Inc. In a phone interview midday Monday, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp described the development as "a triple win" for Texas A&M, for FUJIFILM and for the nation that has been a decade in the making. Sharp explained that the center was one of three developed in the U.S. in response to the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009.
U. of Missouri curators to decide dual role for Mun Choi
Faculty concern about University of Missouri System President Mun Choi taking over as permanent chancellor of the Columbia campus has increased since Choi told deans and top administrators to support his decisions. And as the Board of Curators prepares to vote Tuesday on the plan, it is also clear that leaders at the other three campuses fear they could be undermined by the arrangement. The curators will hear a consultant's report on the move before deciding whether to merge the two jobs. Choi has been interim chancellor and system president since the departure of Alexander Cartwright in March for a post at the University of Central Florida. Choi's $530,000 annual salary didn't increase. Not since the creation of the university system in 1963 has the system president also been MU chancellor.
Senate Republicans Propose $29 Billion for Higher Ed
Senate Republicans in their opening bid for negotiations with Democrats over the next coronavirus aid package proposed giving colleges and universities an additional $29 billion in aid, which is a figure American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called "woefully inadequate." Colleges also could get part of another $5 billion for governors, who could also use the money on early childhood and K-12 education, "based on the needs of the state." Unlike the last relief package, the CARES Act, institutions would not be required to give half their aid to students through emergency grants. However, the proposal also cuts in half the amount of aid that can be received by institutions that had to pay a federal tax on endowments in 2019, and only allows them to spend the money on aid to students. Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate education committee, acknowledged the proposal would likely change during negotiations with Democrats as Congress races to come to an agreement on a package by the end of the week.
APLU Statement on Senate Republicans Proposal for Phase IV COVID-19 Emergency Relief
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson on Monday released the following statement on Senate Republicans' proposed Phase IV coronavirus relief package. "We appreciate critical support for higher education in the Senate Republican package, but a lot more must be done as the legislative process moves forward. The $29 billion in emergency funding for higher education will help colleges and universities with unprecedented financial challenges. Additional support is needed to address massive expenses to prioritize safety on campus, help financially stabilize institutions suffering from precipitous declines in revenue, and provide critical support to students. The legislation's inclusion of temporary, limited, coronavirus-related liability protections for institutions that make appropriate efforts to adhere to public health guidance is critically important to universities reopening their campuses where it is safe and prudent to do so. ... At a time when the importance of public universities' mission to advance education, research, and community engagement has rarely been clearer, we call on lawmakers to ensure they meet the scale of the immense challenges facing public higher education."
How colleges are communicating with students about COVID-19
Wearing face masks and practicing social distancing are not what many students had in mind when they pictured their college experience. Yet for students returning to campus this fall, these behaviors must be normalized if institutions stand a chance of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Communicating the importance of COVID-19 safety measures to students is a huge challenge, said Erin Hennessy, vice president of TVP Communications. Institutions that are planning to reopen their campuses this fall must walk a "very fine line" between instillmaning confidence in students and their families that it is safe to return and warning them that bad things could happen if they do, said Hennessy. "It's a really tough spot for an institution to be in," she said. Colleges are already setting expectations and encouraging students to follow the rules when they return. Some institutions, such as the University of South Carolina, are asking students to pledge (and share using the #IPledgeColumbia hashtag) that they will do what they can to protect themselves and the people around them.
Regional public colleges prepare to return to on-campus learning
When colleges began considering what to do for the fall semester, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, decisions were relatively easy to make for some. Community colleges, for the most part, don't rely on residence hall revenue, which helped tip the financial scales toward staying online across the sector. Highly selective institutions can be relatively confident students will still enroll if they go online, given their brand power. Selective or elite institutions planning to open up campuses tend have the funds to test students and take other safety precautions. But for regional public colleges and universities, which serve roughly 40 percent of all undergraduates, the decision to reopen or stay remote includes many moving parts. Most of the member institutions of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, which serves regional institutions, have reported that they plan to return to in-person instruction or use a hybrid model this fall.
In Ames, Iowa, a College Town Is Thirsty for Its Students to Return
The first thing you notice, walking past the bars and restaurants in the Campustown neighborhood just across the street from Iowa State University here, is that no one is wearing masks. On both Friday and Saturday evening at Cafe Baudelaire, a Brazilian burger joint, unmasked college-age patrons sat in tight clusters around tables or at the bar, in front of the taps. If you peeked inside the dark basement of Welch Avenue Station, a watering hole up the block, you could see patrons sitting in groups near the bar games in the back, the masks worn only by the bartender and servers. On the streets, students ambled along in packs of five or seven, a case of beer propped on a shoulder, or several 12-packs piled into a borrowed wheelchair that served as a makeshift shopping cart, heading to a house or an apartment somewhere to party. And the academic year hasn't even started. Next month, the university and the City of Ames could take in some 31,000 students and researchers, including about 25,000 undergraduates -- although the exact number is still unclear, as many might yet choose to enroll at a distance.
With COVID-19 precautions, eating on a college campus might seem 'really weird' this semester
Dining areas will offer few menu options and limited seating as students return next month to college campuses across Oklahoma, higher education officials say. The COVID-19 pandemic will make lunchtime less of a social occasion this fall semester as campuses try to keep students fed but also try to keep them from congregating. At the University of Oklahoma, for example, students will get in and out of dining areas by following designated pathways, carefully mapped out to prevent customers from passing each other. Mandatory mask rules will apply on most campuses statewide, including the University of Tulsa, where seating capacity will be cut 70% in all dining areas. That will likely give most students no option but to take meals to-go, and the Student Union will add several grab-and-go options to make it more convenient to eat somewhere else, TU officials said. Emphasizing that "health and safety are the priority," TU's Student Association president recently issued a video statement encouraging her fellow students to cooperate with the new way of eating on campus.
Furman Kappa Alpha alumni urge break from Robert E. Lee, Confederacy
Some alumni members of Kappa Alpha Order at Furman University want the fraternity to cut historic ties to the Confederacy and its "spiritual founder," Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. Following the death of George Floyd and renewed effort to remove Confederate figures, 84 Iota Chapter alumni signed a letter to the fraternity's national office asking that it separate from Lee and the Confederacy. Kappa Alpha Order is a nationwide fraternity with more than 8,000 active members and 122 chapters, including the Iota chapter at Furman University with about 50 undergraduate members and more than 1,000 alumni members. Jay Anthony, a Greenville-based attorney and Iota Chapter alum, shared a copy of the letter with The Greenville News. "What we really want is a public break and final break with the Confederacy, and Robert E. Lee," Anthony said during a phone call. "That's just got to be done, and it needs to be done publicly and with no weasel wording to it -- just in a straightforward way."
U. Of Notre Dame Withdraws As Host Of 1st Presidential Debate
The University of Notre Dame will no longer host the first presidential debate on September 29, citing "constraints" brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. "The necessary health precautions would have greatly diminished the educational value of hosting the debate on our campus," University President Reverend John I. Jenkins announced Monday. Indiana, which is home to Notre Dame, reported its highest number of daily cases last week and the state has had over 62,000 cases since January. The September debate will move to Cleveland and will be co-hosted by Case Western Reserve University and the medical institution, Cleveland Clinic --- according to a statement from the Commission on Presidential Debates. The state has reached 84,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with nearly 12,000 in Cleveland's Cuyahoga County alone. This host change comes just one month after the second presidential debate -- scheduled for October 15 -- was moved from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor after the school's president said the event was "not feasible."

Gov. Tate Reeves: College football crowds will be small unless COVID-19 numbers change
If college football kicked off this week it would not bode well for fans wanting to watch from inside stadiums across Mississippi. Things could change between now and Labor Day weekend, however. Gov. Tate Reeves, in comments at his regular media briefing on Monday, left open the possibility that there could be no college football in the state but leaned to the idea that the games would be played before significantly reduced crowds. While Power Five conferences the Big 10 and the Pac-12 have already announced their intentions to play only conference games the SEC is expected to unveil its plan either late this week or early next week. Reeves indicated he is unlikely to alter plans formulated by college conferences and university leaders, but he'll have a big say in the number of fans allowed to attend. "The decisions on whether to play at the college level are more likely to be made at the university and conference levels," Reeves said. "The number of people in the stands, if any, is likely to be made by the leaders in each state."
Despite MHSAA delay, MAIS fall sports operating with on-time mindset
Earlier this month, the Mississippi High School Activities Association postponed the start date for all athletic events by two weeks. Late Monday night, reports surfaced that all Jackson Public Schools will be canceling all fall sports in the coming days. To this point, the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools has yet to follow suit. Under MAIS guidelines, prep soccer, softball and volleyball can all start games as soon as this Friday. Locally, the Starkville Academy girls soccer 5 p.m. season opener against St. Aloysius remains on as scheduled for Friday in Starkville. Volunteers coach John Morgan said players remain optimistic, and while he hasn't heard of any plans to delay or cancel any season, he believes the situation itself remains fluid. "It's going to be an interesting season, that's for sure," said Morgan, whose team had a scrimmage with Starkville Homeschool on Monday. Morgan said no changes have been made for attendance policies, though Starkville Academy will encourage spectators to socially distance. Meanwhile, two MAIS football coaches confirmed to the Dispatch last week they are unaware of any plans to delay a season. Practice for MAIS football began Monday afternoon, with most area private school teams scheduled to kickoff on Aug. 21.
The SEC's top behind-the-scenes power players
They are future athletic directors. They are the confidants of the most influential people in college sports. They are the people you go to when you need something done right. They are the people with names you might not know yet but need to know. Recently, AL.com set out to identify the SEC's top behind-the-scenes power players. These are people who aren't making $7 million as an SEC head coach or doing media interviews as the face of an athletic department. But they are vitally important people who have real influence in college football's most powerful conference. AL.com talked to sources throughout college athletics, getting input from Power 5 athletic directors, coaches, high-level administrators, search firm consultants, agents, media members and more. These are the names that came up the most consistently and elicited the strongest praise.
Former Ole Miss staffer files lawsuit against NCAA
Former Ole Miss football administrative assistant Barney Farrar has filed a lawsuit charging negligence against the NCAA. The NCAA alleged that Farrar was a part of multiple major violations during its years-long investigation of the Ole Miss program which concluded in 2018. Farrar is seeking actual damages for lost income and anxiety and punitive damages. The complaint lists no dollar figure. He is also seeking a declaration from the NCAA that it will take no future action against him unless said action complies with Mississippi law and not only NCAA regulations. The lawsuit is at least the third against the NCAA to spring from the Ole Miss investigation. Farrar is represented by Tupelo attorney Jim Waide, who is also the attorney of record in the lawsuit filed against the NCAA by former Ole Miss assistant coach David Saunders. Farrar, a native of Kossuth, is currently an assistant coach at Jones Junior College and resides in Ellisville.
Georgia AD Greg McGarity hopes SEC football decision comes soon
As the Georgia Bulldogs stepped up their practices this week, there remains uncertainty about how long it might be before they play games, if at all. Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity will participate in video conference calls along with the rest of the SEC's athletic directors and Commissioner Greg Sankey on Tuesday and Friday of this week. While those are regularly scheduled meetings, it has been widely reported that they'll make a decision on when to start the season and whether they'll play an altered scheduled by the end of Friday's meeting. McGarity is not so sure. "To say that we'd have a decision by the end of this week, I just don't know, honestly," he said. "I don't know if that moves the ball any further down the field or not. I'd be afraid to say one way or another. You just never know when something might break." ACC presidents plan to meet Wednesday, at which time they expect to make a final decision. That league reportedly favors a conference-only, plus-one model.
Gainesville's current COVID-19 situation makes it difficult to have fans in the fall
Football gamedays in the fall are an important part of Gainesville's culture. The tailgating, the sea of orange and blue, the rowdy fans and the spectacle of watching football with 90,000 other fans are all part of the college football experience. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting people around the world, it's guaranteed that won't happen this year. At least, not at full capacity. Last week, Scott Stricklin, UF's athletic director, mentioned in a Zoom conference the possibility of having fans in the stands. "My guess is if you were looking at a strictly six-foot social distancing scenario with fans in the Swamp you're looking at 15-20,000," he said. "Maybe you can get close to 25,000 fans, but it's a much different number than what we're accustomed to." Schools like Texas, Ohio State and Iowa State have announced their plans to hold games in front of reduced crowds. But with Florida having over 75,000 cases of COVID-19 in the last week according to the Centers for Disease Control -- the most out of any state in the country -- there are questions about safety and public health that come with hosting large events during a pandemic.
Mizzou Athletics to stop printing tickets for 2020-21 school year, unveils new ticketing app
Missouri Athletics ticketing will be going digital for the upcoming sports year, as it announced Monday that ticketing for football and men's and women's basketball games this season will be available on a new smartphone app. The app, which comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, stresses the importance of safety and convenience and will cut down on hand-to-hand contact, a release from the department said. "The convenience of digital ticketing is something I know our fans have been intrigued by for a long time, and that was confirmed during the focus groups we held as part of the decision-making process," Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said in the release. With the change, the department will no longer print or mail game tickets. Fans will also no longer have the option to print PDFs of their tickets at home. However, parking passes will still be printed and mailed.

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