Friday, August 14, 2020   
With possibility of no college football, Starkville city leaders look at potential impacts
Starkville city leaders say canceling college football would have a big impact on the city's finances. Members of the Southeastern Conference, such as Mississippi State, are scheduled to begin their 10-game conference-only schedules on Sept. 26. However, the possibility of no football hovers over the SEC. In the event that does come to fruition, the city would be dealing with a much less robust budget, Mayor Lynn Spruill said, and adjustments would need to be made. She said the possibility of no college football will dictate how city leaders approach the city's budget for the upcoming year. "We're looking at a projection of anywhere between $800,000 to $1.1 million of a loss in sales tax revenue, which we've got to make up in some kind of way," she said. The Starkville Board of Aldermen will hold a work session Friday to discuss any changes to the city's budget. Spruill is keeping her fingers crossed for college football.
MSU-Meridian opens for fall classes on Monday
Faculty, staff and administrators at Mississippi State University Meridian are ready for the official start of the 2020 fall semester on Monday, August 17. "Our entire team at MSU-Meridian has worked hard to ensure a safe return to campus for our students," said Terry Dale Cruse, associate vice president and head of campus, "and that includes requiring all employees, students and visitors to wear face coverings and practice social distancing." Safety measures the university has put in place include reducing each classroom on the College Park and Riley Campuses to half of its normal capacity, and in cases where current enrollment exceeded that number, classes have been relocated to larger spaces that accommodate social distancing. "All classrooms used for instruction are now equipped with cameras and microphones that can be used for broadcasting classes," noted Cruse, "and our faculty are prepared to accommodate students who can't make it to campus through online instruction."
MSU Partnership Middle School
Mississippi State University and the Starkville Oktibbeha School District recently established the new Partnership Middle School at MSU. MSU and SOSD officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 4. The $30 million building is located on 43 acres of land that MSU donated for the site, which is located north of Highway 182 and east of George Perry Street on the MSU campus. The 128,000-square-foot facility will serve sixth- and seventh-grade students in the district and have additional classrooms for students in MSU's College of Education who are training to become teachers. Students will learn core subjects in five-classroom pods, a release from MSU says. Each pod includes common spaces as well as spaces for fine arts, a multi-media center, a gymnasium and a cafeteria. The facility also has shared classroom gardens to teach planting, growing, harvesting and nutrition. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation supported the establishment of the gardens through a $900,000 grant.
Mississippi lawmakers tweak program to put more COVID money in the hands of small businesses
Mississippi lawmakers tweaked the rules on the Back to Business grant program this week because only a fraction of coronavirus relief money was getting to small businesses. The Legislature set aside $300 million of federal CARES Act money in May to help small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Of that money, $60 million was supposed to be distributed in direct payments to some businesses forced to shut down, and $240 million was supposed to be available in grants worth up to $25,000. Lawmakers made several changes to the program, including broadening access and increasing potential awards, that they hope will put a bigger chunk of the $300 million into the hands of small business owners. In discussing the bill, top lawmakers said they expect to revisit the program in October if there are still significant funds left. Any funds not distributed by Nov. 1 will then be spent at the discretion of Gov. Tate Reeves, according to the original law passed by the Legislature in May.
Gov. Tate Reeves: Virus cases down in 80% of Mississippi counties
New cases of the coronavirus are steadily declining in more than 80% of Mississippi's 82 counties, Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday. The Republican governor attributed the decrease to residents' commitment to wearing masks and social distancing but also urged residents not to become complacent and to continue their efforts to slow the virus' spread. "The numbers are coming down, let's be happy about that, but not let's not rest," Reeves said Thursday on Facebook Live. "Let's not ignore it. Let's fight and continue to crush this virus." Reeves said the state is seeing steady decreases in more than 70 counties in the state. However, he said "there's more work to do" in six counties -- Forrest, Jones, Lee, Union, Bolivar and Panola, where officials are still seeing a considerable number of positive cases. He called on leaders in those counties to make sure that they enforce the statewide mask mandate and his executive orders, which limit crowd sizes and restaurant capacity.
Gov. Tate Reeves: 6 Mississippi counties still battling high number of COVID-19 cases
Mississippi's coronavirus numbers are improving, Gov. Tate Reeves said in a live video Thursday, because residents are working hard to reduce transmission, but it is not time to step back from efforts to prevent its spread. Reeves said the decline in the daily number of positive cases is encouraging, but that doesn't mean preventive measures are winding down. He said actions like wearing masks and social distancing over the last six to eight weeks appear to be working, but are still very much needed to slow the spread of COVID-19. "We need you to continue to work hard," he said. "If we can do the little things, it will make a huge difference." While the numbers are coming down in most areas of the state, six counties remain a big concern, Reeves said. Bolivar, Forrest, Jones, Lee, Panola and Union counties still have higher daily cases per 100 people, which is causing concern for Reeves and state health officials. Reeves said the state's 76 other counties are continuing to see a decline in the number of positive cases of coronavirus, but precautions still need to be taken to prevent them from going up again.
'The virus doesn't care who you voted for.' Gov. Tate Reeves warns of COVID-19 political divide.
Gov. Tate Reeves addressed Mississippians on Thursday with a message for those who are in a back and forth with friends and neighbors over the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first-term governor's briefing was a solo address, but he's often joined in daily media sessions by the state's top health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, in an effort to keep the coronavirus discussion above the political fray. Reeves, who described "radical liberals" as a threat to his state's culture and values during his campaign last year, showed concern Thursday over the dialogue he continues to see between the right and left. "This virus doesn't care who you voted for in 2016 elections," the Republican said. "There's no doubt the 2020 election is coming and some things being said by our political opponents doesn't help, but the virus doesn't care. It's being spread by Republicans, spread by Democrats and spread by independents. It doesn't matter what your political affiliation is. Our enemy is not one another. Our enemy is the virus. Let's work together to crush it."
The county coroner says fear, not COVID-19, is causing a surge in deaths. Experts disagree.
The DeSoto County coroner disputed the validity of state health department statistics and said that fear of the virus is more dangerous than the virus itself in a Facebook post that has been shared over 3,500 times. In the 654-word post, Josh Pounders, who has been the county coroner since January 2018, said that he believed people without training have been stirring fears about the dangers of COVID-19. The fears surrounding the pandemic have been so powerful, he said in the post, it has caused a drastic increase in cardiovascular and pulmonary-related deaths. Pounders has training as a registered nurse, but top experts in hospitals said his claims are opinions and are not rooted in science or evidence. "I think it's fairly unlikely that we will see actual proof that misinformation about COVID... led to an increase in mortality," Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist who works at the Baptist Memorial Hospital system, said, adding that Pounders' assertion that stress from COVID-19 would cause a drastic increase in deaths is "a link of logic that is very difficult to make from scientific data." "It is ridiculous to suggest that the MSDH tells coroners what to do regarding their diagnosis of death. I found the coroner's comments article utterly unfounded and damaging to those working on the frontlines to fight COVID-19 and the many Mississippians who need to have accurate information," Liz Sharlot, the director of the office of communications at the MSDH said in a statement.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs: COVID-19 Improvement, But Schools Pose Grave Danger
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has overseen the Mississippi State Department of Health's response to the coronavirus pandemic for half a year now. For the first time since the reopening of the state in late April, Dobbs sees the first signs of downward trends in key metrics -- new cases and new hospital admissions. This is evidence that the state's mask mandates and health messaging are having the intended effect, he says. But Dobbs is also looking ahead to the imminent reopening of Mississippi's schools and the threat it poses, a decision he cautioned the governor against to no avail. Other medical experts joined Dobbs in calling for the school delay, including the University of Mississippi Medical Center's LouAnn Woodward and medical associations across the state. Mississippi's top health expert spoke with the Jackson Free Press on Aug. 12 about the state's response.
Espy, Hyde-Smith campaigns release dueling polls in Mississippi Senate race
An internal poll released by Democrat Mike Espy's U.S. Senate campaign on Thursday reports he's gaining ground and is within five points of incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, to whom he lost by more than seven points in a 2018 special election. But Hyde-Smith's campaign released its own internal poll later Thursday, reporting she has a 20-point lead, and her camp questioned the methodology and veracity of Espy's poll. Many statewide and national politicos don't consider the race to be competitive, and previous polling has shown the incumbent Republican with healthier leads in one of the reddest states in the country. In a release Thursday afternoon, the Hyde-Smith campaign said "the methodology is awful" on the poll Espy released. The campaign noted that a poll of 600 people should not have taken 10 days to complete, and said it "cherry picked" demographics among independents.
Mike Espy makes healthcare affordability center of U.S. Senate campaign
As the novel coronavirus continues to shed a light on stark health disparities that have long existed in Mississippi communities, Mike Espy is now making access to affordable healthcare the central issue of his U.S. Senate campaign. Espy, the Democratic nominee for the U.S Senate, has recently hosted several virtual roundtable events and aired campaign ads that home in on healthcare, particularly the problem of how low income Mississippians often cannot afford access to quality medical care. "Jim Eastland was the senator that appointed the judges because he was the head of the judiciary committee," Espy said at a recent campaign event. "Senator Stennis was the senator of the modern Navy because he was over armed forces. And Senator Cochran was the senator for agriculture. I want to be the senator for healthcare." The former federal agriculture secretary and U.S. congressman believes one of the easiest ways to solve the existing disparities and to keep rural hospitals from shuttering is for the state to expand Medicaid coverage to poor Mississippians.
President Trump gives credence to false, racist Kamala Harris conspiracy
President Donald Trump on Thursday gave credence to a false and racist conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris' eligibility to be vice president, fueling an online misinformation campaign that parallels the one he used to power his rise into politics. Asked about the matter at the White House, Trump told reporters he had "heard" rumors that Harris, a Black woman and U.S.-born citizen whose parents were immigrants, does not meet the requirement to serve in the White House. The president said he considered the rumors "very serious." The conspiracy theory is false. Harris, who was tapped this week by Joe Biden to serve as his running mate on the Democratic ticket, was born in Oakland, California, and is eligible for both the vice presidency and presidency under the constitutional requirements. The question is not even considered complex, according to constitution lawyers.
President Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida primary
The day before publicly opposing funding to accommodate an expected surge in Americans voting by mail in this year's presidential election, President Donald Trump requested a mail-in ballot to vote in Florida's upcoming primary. The elections website for Palm Beach County, Fla., where Trump is registered to vote, shows that mail-in ballots were requested for the president and first lady Melania Trump on Wednesday. The news was first reported by USA Today. The ballots, according to the county's supervisor of elections, would have to be picked up in person as the deadline has already passed for them to be mailed. Unlike some states where ballots can be post-marked by election day in order to be counted, the Trumps must return theirs by next Tuesday's primary date. Trump railed against voting-by-mail on Thursday, saying he opposes crucial funding for the U.S. Postal Service as part of an effort to discourage Americans from voting by mail in November. The president has repeatedly demonized mail-in voting as governors across the country have sought to expand it amid the coronavirus pandemic, but has previously stated that some instances, including his, are permissible.
Boys State churns out members of Congress. These were their teenage dreams.
Advice for teens can sound pretty hollow, especially when it comes from the mouths of politicians. Get ready, they like to say. You are the leaders of tomorrow. The future belongs to you. Soon enough you'll be running for office yourself. When it comes to Boys State, they're probably right. The program has influenced some of the most powerful men in the country, including current lawmakers as far apart in tone as Sens. John Thune, Cory Booker and Tom Cotton. "Close to my family's heart" is how Cotton once described the program. "A real hands-on civic lesson," said Sen. Bob Menendez. All told, at least 20 percent of senators now serving on Capitol Hill cut their political teeth at Boys State back when they were in high school. "You learn how to lead," Tim Scott said of his time there. Lamar Alexander was so struck by the experience -- half summer camp, half immersive roleplaying -- that he keeps a framed memento from 1957 on the wall of his office in Washington. Zoom out beyond the Hill, and you'll find even more alumni, like a young Bill Clinton, a young Dick Cheney and a young Samuel Alito. These are the men who really did go on to run the nation, and this is the program that nurtured their wildest teenage dreams about how government should work. Founded by the American Legion 85 years ago as a capitalist answer to socialist youth groups, the program is still going strong.
Hundreds of Northeast Mississippi Community College students are quarantined after 9 COVID-19 cases
Nearly 300 students who began in-person classes at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville last week are now quarantined after at least nine cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on campus. Also in quarantine are more than 25 employees. "One student came back from lunch. She'd been in the classroom all morning with a group of students. She said you know I can't taste or smell anything. The instructor said okay you need to go get tested. So she goes and gets tested and of course, it comes back positive so that entire class and both instructors had to be quarantined for two weeks," said NEMCC President Dr. Ricky Ford. Ford says students who are quarantined are continuing their classes online. Classes begin Monday at Meridian Community College. Dr. Tom Huebner, president of the college, says although there's no current outbreak it's critically important for students and employees to practice good judgment when they interact with others on and off-campus. "We like many entities invested highly in plexiglass so we've got as many devices and barriers we possibly can between folks as well as the masks and so I think we've created an environment that has the potential to be as safe as possible but it all requires people to use good judgment," said Huebner.
How Alabama will punish students, organizations, employees for COVID-19 violations
The University of Alabama on Thursday updated its return to campus guidelines less than a week before classes begin Aug. 19. The additions include specific language on how it will enforce new rules and regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are punishments listed for the first three violations with a fourth possibly resulting in a suspension for up to a year, according to the plan released Thursday afternoon. The rules in play here involve appropriate use of facial covering, practicing social distancing and restrictions on large social gatherings. The first violation comes with a written warning and additional health and safety training. A second will bring a formal charge that goes on the student's written record along with more health and safety training. A third violation brings disciplinary probation for up to two semesters and required completion of the Capstone Character Workshop. Employees punishments start with verbal counseling and written counseling on the first and second violations. A three-day unpaid suspension comes after Strike 3 while a fourth will result in termination.
Former Deltic Timber Corp. CEO Donates $1M to U. of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville announced Thursday a $1 million donation from former Deltic Timber Corp. CEO Ray Dillon and his wife, Deborah, that will support timber initiatives there. The money will be split between the entrance hall of the planned Anthony Timberlands Center for Design & Materials Innovation and an endowed chair. The hall will be named for the couple, contingent upon approval by the chancellor and the university board. The Ray C. Dillon Chair in Arkansas Timber & Wood Design & Innovation will be used to attract and recruit individuals to fill it, supplement university support for outstanding faculty and provide the holder with resources to continue and further his or her contributions to teaching, research and public service. Dillon is from Tylertown, Mississippi, and he graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in chemical engineering. He also holds an MBA from the University of Chicago.
For Louisiana college students, moving into dorms during coronavirus is a 'matter of adjusting'
Driving on campus at their appointed hour, Southeastern Louisiana University students and their families queued while workers asked questions about their activities and symptoms, gave them instructions on when and where to unload for the dorms. It's move-in day at Southeastern and 10 other campuses across Louisiana. Actually, the day has turned into a week-long affair as colleges attempt to avoid the usual crowding at the event when parents send their children out into the world. About 214,000 students are returning to the state's public universities during the next two weeks. "Whether it's down the bayou at Nicholls or on the bluff at Southern, our colleges and universities are stressing to students and faculty the important role they play in returning to campus safely," Higher Education Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed said Thursday in a prepared statement. "We must be vigilant in following the safety protocols because we know with COVID-19 in every community across our state, this will be the only way to minimize the on-campus spread of the virus."
Tennessee colleges prepare to return for fall semester amid COVID-19
Tennessee college students returning to campus this fall will have to adjust to many changes -- maybe even ones they haven't anticipated. Students will see mask requirements and more online classes, Mike Krause, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said at Gov. Bill Lee's Thursday COVID-19 briefing. "In order to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 on our campuses, we have to do things differently," Krause said. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has worked over the summer to provide training opportunities for colleges and universities to prepare for the fall semester. Access to testing is also key to returning to campus, and over 30,000 COVID-19 tests have been secured for colleges and universities in the state, Krause said. Things will look different at every campus, but one thing is consistent: masks are important. "The most important thing (students) can do this fall is wear a mask," Krause said.
28 positive COVID-19 cases at University of Tennessee-Knoxville, chancellor says
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville currently has 28 positive COVID-19 cases, Chancellor Donde Plowman confirmed Thursday. Plowman said 20 of the 28 positive cases on campus are students, while the remaining eight cases are university employees. Those active cases include ongoing cases, only 4 of 28 are new reports since August 9th. Officials said 155 people are currently self-isolating due to potential exposure. In those cases of self-isolation, the majority are self-isolating because of exposure to a positive COVID-19 case. Joining Plowman on the virutal update, Dr. Spencer Gregg, the Director of the Student Health Center at UT Knoxville. Gregg said the university is currently contracted with three companies to provide testing quickly. UT Knoxville is also in the process of securing rapid tests for faster results through the Student Health Center.
As South Carolina preps for move-in weekend, President Bob Caslen optimistic on student behavior amid COVID
With a flood of students set to return to the University of South Carolina this weekend, president Bob Caslen said Thursday he remains "optimistic" that those students' behavior amid the coronavirus pandemic won't be as bad as some fear. Caslen, speaking during a virtual town with faculty and staff, cited an example he said he saw recently while leaving his office late in the evening. "There is the sorority rush sitting on the Horseshoe, five or six groups of 20 or so women, all separated, all with masks, and I'll tell you what, it really was just a sight to behold," Caslen said. "Because you just wonder whether or not the students will come through, and I have full confidence they will, and it just proved itself again." People participating in sorority recruitment are just some of the groups who already moved in last week --- Caslen also cited student-athletes and other organizations. Already, USC has conducted 7,255 tests for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to Dr. Deborah Beck, executive director of student health services. Of that number, 3.9% of students have tested positive, Beck said during the town hall, while just 0.67% of staff members have been positive.
Colleges in Arkansas alter policies covering Title IX cases; sex assault, harassment claims at issue
A new definition of sexual harassment and different procedures for responding to campus sexual assault are among changes at Arkansas colleges and universities as a contested federal rule takes effect today. Revised policies at Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville also make clear that reports of sexual misconduct occurring off campus no longer will be investigated through campus Title IX offices, though the universities say they will still review student complaints of off-campus misconduct. Several colleges in the state and elsewhere revised campus policies in recent days, citing the U.S. Department of Education's final rule regarding Title IX, which is the law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at schools receiving federal money. "We first have to figure out, when a report is made, does it now fall under Title IX? That's because the definition is very different than what it was," Liz Means, UA's Title IX coordinator, told students in a videoconference meeting last week.
UGA council won't condemn university system, UGA pandemic planning
The University of Georgia's University Council has voted against endorsing a resolution condemning the UGA and University System of Georgia reopening plans. In a Wednesday meeting, the council did approve forming an ad hoc committee to work with two UGA committee involved in the university's continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The council turned down the resolution critical of the UGA's pandemic plans by a vote of 64 for it, 87 against, with 12 abstaining. The vote to establish the committee was 96 in favor, 54 against and six abstaining. The University Council is a university-wide legislative body charged with advising the UGA president on academic and other matters that affect the entire university. Most of its members are elected faculty members from across the university. The group also includes a number of voting ex-officio members on the council by virtue of their jobs at the university - deans of UGA's schools and some other administrators.
Officials brace for protests as U. of Florida students prepare their return to campus
As the start of the Fall semester draws near, University of Florida officials are preparing for a return of about 56,000 students -- some with the expectation of more political turbulence than ever. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement and upcoming presidential elections have already made an impact on the Gainesville community. With the additional influx of students returning in Fall, UF law professor Clay Calvert said he expects tensions surrounding each to grow. "It's an interesting time with a lot of forces triangulating," he said. "Navigating these issues will not be easy on any university campus, given the heated political climate in which we live in today." The university will support students' First Amendment rights, said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando, but on-campus protesters must respect public health guidelines: This means wearing face masks where there are more than 250 people outdoors and socially distancing from others. The university's COVID-19 prevention guidelines aren't in place to limit speech but to instead maintain the public's safety, health and well-being in light of COVID-19, Calvert added.
State Department designates D.C. coordinating office for Confucius Institutes a 'foreign mission'
The State Department announced Thursday that it was designating the Washington, D.C.-based Confucius Institute U.S. Center a "foreign mission" of the People's Republic of China. The center coordinates language and cultural programs for the Confucius Institutes, Chinese government-funded centers for language education and cultural programming, at colleges across the United States. The institutes have run afoul of Congressional lawmakers who see them as vehicles for disseminating Chinese government propaganda in U.S. classrooms. This latest move by the State Department reflects another way in which an increasingly adversarial and competitive relationship between the U.S. and China has affected academic exchange. The State Department says the designation recognizes the Confucius Institute U.S. Center "for what it is: an entity advancing Beijing's global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.
Justice Department Accuses Yale of Discrimination in Application Process
The Justice Department on Thursday accused Yale University of violating federal civil rights law by discriminating against Asian-American and white applicants, an escalation of the Trump administration's moves against race-based admissions policies at elite universities. The charge, coming after a two-year investigation, is the administration's second confrontation with an Ivy League school; two years ago, it publicly backed Asian-American students who accused Harvard in a lawsuit of systematically discriminating against them. The department's finding could have far-reaching consequences for the ongoing legal challenges to affirmative action, which are expected to eventually reach the Supreme Court. Some conservative groups have long opposed affirmative action, a tool born in the civil rights era, and a handful of states have banned such policies at public universities. Yale pledged to fight the order, saying Thursday that it would hold fast to its admissions process. "The department's allegation is baseless," said Peter Salovey, Yale's president. "At this unique moment in our history, when so much attention properly is being paid to issues of race, Yale will not waver in its commitment to educating a student body whose diversity is a mark of its excellence."
Colleges Had 3 Months to Overhaul Sexual-Misconduct Policies. Now They're Scrambling.
At any other moment, it would be major news: The sweeping new regulations governing campus sexual misconduct take effect on Friday. But as Covid-19 scuttles campus plans and decimates budgets, colleges are grappling with more existential questions -- like, will they survive this academic year? Needless to say, administrators' attention was elsewhere this summer. That means, on many campuses, they're scrambling to rewrite policies, make new hires, and train existing staff and faculty members on the rules interpreting Title IX, the gender-equity law. In some cases, the regulations require a complete overhaul of the way colleges investigate sexual assault and punish offenders. "My impression is, everybody's trying to write the paper and get it in on time," said Alison Kiss Dougherty, associate vice president of human resources and Title IX coordinator at Widener University. Though colleges are trying their best, not every institution will be 100-percent ready for prime time on Friday, experts say.
Colleges implement changes to meet Title IX deadline
College officials across the country have been debuting plans over the past week to abide by new federal rules for responding to complaints of sexual misconduct on campus. The rules go into effect today as many colleges are preparing for the start of the fall semester or have already begun the new academic year. Some of the plans have been condemned by advocates for survivors of sexual assault, who say they were excluded from the process of drafting new policies under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law prohibiting sex discrimination at federally funded institutions. Students also fear colleges will implement policies that closely align with the regulations, which have been widely criticized by survivors for not requiring colleges to respond to sexual harassment and assault that occurs off-campus, among other limitations.
Delaying college in the pandemic could cost you: Study says students could lose $90,000 over their lifetime
Going to college immediately after high school has been a rite of passage for millions of students. Now, more college-bound students are considering a gap year amid rising coronavirus cases and concerns about the value of college instruction that may be partly or all online. A new study out this week by SimpsonScarborough finds that 40 percent of incoming freshmen are likely or highly likely to not attend any four-year college this fall. Last week, Harvard reported that more than 20% of its first-year students are deferring enrollment. But there could be a downside to delaying college by a year: the potential loss of $90,000 in lifetime earnings, according to a recent study from economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That might seem counter-intuitive, given that the pandemic has pushed the jobless rate higher, prompting questions from families about whether it's the best time to make a pricey investment in a college degree. New York Fed economists Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz say that's missing the point. The pandemic has made a college degree more valuable, not less, partly because the prospects for people with only a high school diploma are far weaker in the pandemic than for those with a bachelor's degree.
Colleges That Keep Small Isolated Towns Vibrant Now Pose Public Health Threat
Hundreds of small colleges dotting the country rely on students paying tens of thousands of dollars a year in exchange for a distinctive, personal, high-touch college experience. Many of those colleges hung on year-to-year even before the pandemic. Now COVID-19 threatens to cut off the oxygen sustaining these schools, and the sports programs that drive enrollment. But the very thing small colleges need to stay afloat -- students coming in, spending money, playing sports -- also poses a major risk to relatively isolated little towns that, so far, have dodged major coronavirus outbreaks. "Some of the people I know are looking at hundreds of colleges going out of business within the next several years, if this pandemic continues and if the economic devastation associated with it continues," said Scott Carlson with the Chronicle of Higher Education. Small schools survive only by providing an expensive, in-person college experience. And Carlson said the pandemic shreds that business model, and threatens to trigger the higher education equivalent of a mass extinction. "It's kind of sad," he said. "These colleges are unique, little entities all on their own, and each one of them provides a unique spin on higher education."
Excitement. Fear. Resignation. Welcome to the Fall Semester.
This is worth it. The sentiment echoed on the steps of the student center, outside the dorms, in a conversation between parents outside the bookstore. Tens of thousands of students were moving back to the University of Kentucky this week after the campus abruptly shut down, in March. They bought new gear. They posted pictures of their dorm rooms. The sweet relief of togetherness, after months of isolation. This is worth it. The moment's excitement was a result of the university's intense planning. The Chronicle spent three days on the University of Kentucky's campus, in Lexington, interviewing more than 50 people about returning to college in a pandemic that has killed more than 160,000 Americans and sent higher education spiraling. Some people are queasy, but many others, many students, are thrilled. This is worth it. Behind masks, sometimes, they're smiling wide. Campus leaders stress that a key factor in their decision to bring back students was inequities between who can and can't effectively learn -- or safely live.

5 training camp questions for Mississippi State offense under Mike Leach
Football. It's happening in SEC country. For now, anyway. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already canceled its fall football seasons with hopes of playing in the spring, but the SEC, ACC and Big 12 have planned to forge ahead and play starting next month amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That means Mississippi State coach Mike Leach gets a chance to lead the Bulldogs through a formal training camp for the first time since he arrived in Starkville over eight months ago. Preseason camp starts Aug. 17. Here are five story lines to follow on the MSU offense.
Starkville High School prepping for fall sports but ensuring safety for student athletes
Teams are practicing, fields are being prepped and it is almost time for football. In addition, athletic directors are working toward the best outcome possible, even if means a shorter season. Greg Owen, who took over as the Yellow Jackets Athletic Director in June, said they are preparing for fall sports to take place. "Each day you know we started in June and each day we were preparing," said Owen. "So we just take it day-by-day. Right now we have a plan to ensure safety for our kids as they work out all of our student athletes. So we're focusing on winning each moment each day." That means focusing on the present, and the student even if sports shuts down. "The first thing a lot of people think about is the monetary deal," said Owen. "But that is not the most important thing. The most important thing for us is to be able to provide an avenue for our student athletes to display their talents but most importantly to do it in a safe way." Owen remains positive because he knows how much sports means not only to the student athletes, but also the community.
Dak Prescott stays focused without long-term deal
Dak Prescott stuck with his virtual hiatus trying to get a long-term contract that never came during the offseason. Now that the star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys is in the building preparing to play on the $31.4 million franchise tag, Prescott doesn't see an immediate need for questions about his future with America's Team. "I'm not a guy that looks at my future, to be honest," the 27-year-old former Mississippi State standout said ahead of today's first practice of training camp for the Cowboys. "With things that have happened to me personally, with the place this world is in, with the crisis we're in with COVID, with social injustice, I don't look too far ahead." To be clear, Prescott found several ways to say negotiations that went on for more than a year without a deal didn't change his desire to stay. After three years of enjoying one of the best bargains in the NFL -- but capped by a season that started with high expectations and ended without a trip to the playoffs -- owner Jerry Jones is similarly unconcerned about whether a long-term deal can get done. Prescott can't sign for more than one year until after the 2020 season. "We think he's the quarterback of the future," Jones said in his annual pre-camp news conference, held virtually from offices at team headquarters. "We just couldn't get together at this particular point."
How College Football's Powers Split Over the Coronavirus Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has officially split the world of big-time college football in two. Two of the sport's Power Five conferences -- the Big Ten and Pac-12 -- this week concluded that staging a season in the fall would pose undue risk to athletes' health and safety. They delayed all fall sports until next spring, at least. The other three -- the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big-12 conferences -- looked at the same available information and came to the opposite conclusion. They are convinced -- for now -- that they can make a season work and are pushing forward. The chaos potentially sets the stage for a very strange season in which some of the nation's top powers could vie for a national championship while the rest stew at home. It highlights the ungoverned nature of college football, in which no one, including the NCAA, is fully in charge, leaving powerful schools and conferences to push their own agendas. Not even the army of medical advisers hired by universities and conferences agree on what to do.
Paul Finebaum's winners and losers: 'Greg Sankey looks like the leader of college football'
Before you read this, the opinions could change. That's how fast things have moved in college football the past few days as Power 5 conferences -- and their member programs -- wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the upcoming college football season. With that said, who -- at this point -- are the winners in the court of public perception and who are the losers? "We all know people who think it's ridiculous to have college football and people who think it's ridiculous not to have college football," Paul Finebaum told Lee Shirvanian and me on "The Opening Kickoff" on WNSP-FM 105.5 on Thursday. "As of today, the SEC has come out of this extremely well," Finebaum told WNSP. "If you are a college football player around the country, you look at the SEC and say, 'Maybe I could've played in the SEC.' Three weeks later, it may not matter. The SEC has looked deliberate and thoughtful. I think Greg Sankey looks like the leader of college football. He looks like the most deliberate, thoughtful person, taking his time and giving his coaches a say. He's listening to players."
Politics of college football season seeps into Alabama Senate race
With the start of the college football season teetering on the brink of cancellation Monday, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville took to Twitter and posted a short video in which he called the game he once coached for 20-plus years as "the lifeblood of the South." The former Auburn coach continued an aggressive push in support of continuing with the college football season during interviews on sports talk radio and the Fox News Network and joined a chorus of politicians including President Donald Trump who have elevated the football season to the top of the political chatter this week. With the start of the college football season teetering on the brink of cancellation Monday, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville took to Twitter and posted a short video in which he called the game he once coached for 20-plus years as "the lifeblood of the South." The former Auburn coach continued an aggressive push in support of continuing with the college football season during interviews on sports talk radio and the Fox News Network and joined a chorus of politicians including President Donald Trump who have elevated the football season to the top of the political chatter this week.
F. King Alexander takes a shot at SEC, says it's not seeing 'reality' of playing football
In the wake of the Pac-12's decision to postpone all fall sports, including football, until 2021, F. King Alexander said the Southeastern Conference might be failing to see the "reality" of the coronavirus pandemic's impact on college sports. Alexander, the president of Pac-12 school Oregon State University, was president of LSU for a little more than six years. Alexander's assessment of the SEC's decision to move forward with a football season came in an interview with The Oregonian on Thursday where he detailed the decision making, and potential cost, of OSU opting to postpone fall sports. When asked what the Pac-12 sees that the SEC doesn't see, Alexander told the Oregonian, "I think, probably, reality." He then went on to explain that the SEC battles political pressure to play football that aren't as significant in Pac-12 states. "Logistically and realistically, it's quite a gamble on their part ... a big gamble," Alexander said. "There are serious consequences if they lose."
'Life is not risk-free:' Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart explains rationale for moving ahead with football
As of Thursday afternoon, the Southeastern Conference was committed to playing football and other fall sports beginning in September, despite the coronavirus pandemic. While that could swiftly change -- the Big Ten hyped the release of an entirely new football schedule last week and postponed its season on Tuesday -- for now the league's stance is to move forward in its preparations, citing clearance from its own medical advisory groups as grounds to do so. University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart shared some perspective from within the decision-making process during a Thursday morning address hosted by Lexington Forum, a Commerce Lexington group whose mission is "to help grow and inspire future leaders in our community." "(It's) really hard to look at the front windshield and determine where we're headed," Barnhart said. "At the end of the day, life is not risk-free. You can't live that way. You do the best you can with protocols you put in place. ... I think you've got to say, 'OK, I'm willing to live a little bit. I'm not going to live this particular way my whole life.'"
Tennessee football won't have university-organized tailgating this season
UT Chancellor Donde Plowman is hopeful Tennessee will play football this season. But even if the Vols do proceed as planned, it will be without a complete game day staple. "If we do play football, we won't have tailgating on campus," Plowman said in a livestreamed student update. UT issued a statement later Thursday that clarified its stance on tailgating. "Game days will look different this fall," UT spokesperson Tyra Haag said in a statement. "There will be no tailgates organized by the university, including student organizations. There is a lot of uncertainty about plans for football in general. Details about individual fans' ability to tailgate on campus are yet to be determined. Whatever we do will follow recommended guidelines from public health officials. We will communicate specific information as decisions continue to be made." Plowman offered comments on the delayed, but rapidly approaching football season in the first of what is expected to be a twice-per-week livestream. She admitted there are many lingering unanswered questions, but shed light on the tailgating situation and possible attendance changes at Neyland Stadium.
NCAA medical advisers urge focus on pandemic over fall sports
The NCAA's chief medical officer and its two primary infectious disease advisers say the nation's focus should be on controlling the coronavirus pandemic instead of playing fall sports, with one adviser saying, "We simply are not there now." Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University and a fellow with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said in a video conference Thursday that many communities -- including the state of Georgia, where he works -- have COVID-19 case levels that surpass what he believes would allow for a safe return to athletic competition. Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer, said 1-2% of athletes at NCAA schools who have been tested for COVID-19 have tested positive. Of those, he said he knows of a dozen cases of a viral-triggered heart condition called myocarditis, which can pose a risk for sudden cardiac arrest and death. In a separate video conference Thursday, Dr. Jonathan Kim, a sports cardiologist at Emory, a team cardiologist at Georgia Tech and a member of the ACC Sports/Exercise Council, said various studies have suggested that about 20% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have suffered some sort of cardiac injury, including myocarditis.
Alabama AD Greg Byrne: Financial challenges, attendance reductions coming
Going into a sixth month of uncertainty in college athletics, University of Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne knows two things for certain: No matter what happens with football, financial losses will be challenging, and if there are football games in Bryant-Denny Stadium this fall, not many people will be in attendance. Byrne held a 30-minute media availability via Zoom Thursday afternoon on a wide range of topics, including UA's COVID-19 prevention policies and the status of the upcoming football season. "If we are fortunate enough to move forward and play this year, whether we play or don't play, there are going to be significant financial challenges for our department and departments across the country," Byrne said. "Once we get our final schedule and we know the dates for all of our games, then we're going to unveil our ticketing plan, but I can tell you our capacity will be significantly reduced: emphasize on the significant." UA has already lost money from the NCAA Tournament being canceled, potentially as much as $1 million. The inability to play football in 2020 would be the most financially challenging circumstance, but even playing the full 10-game schedule with minimal fan attendance would carry significant financial ramifications.
Moody's: Athletic Departments May Need 'Extraordinary Support'
The recent spate of athletic conference decisions to postpone fall sports means substantial revenue shocks for college athletic departments, and cutting expenses will not always be enough to absorb the blow, according to a new report from Moody's Investors Service. Because sports are strategically important for universities, Moody's expects universities to provide "extraordinary support" like internal loans in order to stay current on debt payments for athletic facilities. Colleges and universities may tap their financial reserves to close budget gaps tied to the pandemic, the ratings agency said in a report released Thursday morning. "Athletic expenses have grown significantly in recent years, including certain fixed costs such as debt service, which will impact universities' ability to adjust to the disruption," said Dennis Gephardt, vice president at Moody's, in a statement. "Budget difficulties at athletic departments will add to the financial strains facing universities, including a tuition revenue pinch, reduced state funding, and incremental expenses to combat the coronavirus."
Wilson Furr's magical U.S. Am week dead-ends, shows that golf often really isn't fair
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Jack Nicklaus, the most accomplished champion in golf history, said it best: "Golf is not, and never has been, a fair game." Early Thursday afternoon, on Oregon's wind-swept Pacific coast and on one of the sport's most beautiful -- and most challenging -- courses, Jackson's 22-year-old Wilson Furr might have agreed. Read on. You can't possibly blame him. All Furr had done over four days was shoot 19-under par for 69 holes, shatter a course record, shoot the second lowest round in the 125-year history of the tournament, win the U.S. Amateur's 36-hole qualifier gold medal by two shots, and then rout his opponent in the first round of match play. And then, despite shooting a four-under par 67 in his second match, he lost. Vanderbilt's Harrison Ott, a good friend of Furr's, played flawless golf Wednesday morning, matching Furr's 67 and then beating him on the first hole of a sudden death playoff. By Wednesday evening, Furr was catching a plane back to Jackson.

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