Monday, September 14, 2020   
Mississippi Public Universities release video to help fight COVID-19
Students attending Mississippi Public Universities join all Mississippians in the race against the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, recent information from the Mississippi State Department of Health shows that the 18-29 age group has had more diagnosed COVID-19 cases that any other age group in the state. The offices of university communications from all eight public universities in Mississippi pulled together to create a system video to encourage all students to realize they are in the driver's seat when it comes to preventing the virus and to follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. "Our students, like all of us, want their lives to return to normal as soon as possible," said Alfred Rankins Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. "The video highlights the smart choices we can make to help stop the spread of the virus and make progress toward returning to a more traditional campus living and learning environment. It is important to remember that if we all take these simple steps together, it can have a powerful, positive impact." Executive produced by David Garraway, Director of the University Television Center at Mississippi State University, the video encourages students to make smart choices now to help reach the finish line on the changes brought about by the pandemic and return to normal.
More details released on Highway 182 renovation plans
The multimillion-dollar makeover of a mile of Highway 182, from Long Street to Old West Point Road, will be completely designed and ready to bid in a year, project manager Clark Bailey of the Kimley-Horn engineering firm told aldermen at their Friday work session. The $12.66 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grant program, would make the area more pedestrian friendly and wheelchair accessible, increase broadband access and improve infrastructure and stormwater drainage. Kimley-Horn has divided the stretch of Highway 182 into sections based on the different widths of right-of-way and the land uses permitted in the city code, Bailey said. Additionally, the board seeks to partner with Oktibbeha County and Mississippi State University to seek grant funding for a multi-use path connecting College View Drive to the east end of the BUILD project on Old West Point Road. The city, county and university have partnered to obtain Transportation Alternatives Project (TAP) grants multiple times in the past to make foot travel easier between MSU and Starkville.
Riley Foundation aids MSU-Meridian students through scholars program
The Riley Foundation Scholars Program is providing scholarship support to 10 talented students at Mississippi State-Meridian. The competitive program provides two-year scholarship awards. Eligible students must have completed at least two years of study at a local community college with a grade-point average of 3.25 or higher (based on a 4.0 scale), as well as provide an essay and personal statement with their application. The current 2020-2021 class of Riley Scholars includes (by hometown): Collinsville: Montana Fason, a junior business administration major. Meridian: Whitney Gardner, a junior applied science major; Tricia LaBiche, a junior accounting major; Anniston Pope, a senior kinesiology major; and Abagail Spangler, a junior elementary education major. Newton: Riley Oubre, a junior elementary education major. Philadelphia: Caelen Martin, a junior psychology major. Quitman: Chloe Gavin, a junior applied technology event and hospitality major. Sebastopol: Makala Creel, a junior elementary education major. Union: Ashley Crawford a junior elementary education major.
Mississippi Horse Park kicked off its first event in months
The Mississippi Horse Park is hosting its first event since the coronavirus pandemic shut it down. Competitors from around the country came to ride in the three-day Horse Poor Barrel Race. Jennifer McGraw traveled from Florida and competed with her horse Oliver. McGraw said she was worried the competition wasn't going to happen this year because of the pandemic. "I feel they did a really good job with reopening it and making it possible to get out there and complete again. Doing what we love," she said. The director of the horse park, Bricklee Miller, said 1,800 riders are competing this weekend. Each competitor is allowed three guests. This year the park can't open concession stands. Instead, local restaurants are set up outside of the auditorium. Miller feels this will bring owners money they lost since the pandemic. "It's a huge economic driver for our community, our area and our state because this is new dollars we are bringing into our community, " she said.
'Lights at Lafayette' aims to bring activity back to downtown Starkville
Weeks after a planned outdoor "streatery" in Starkville faded to black in the face of potential litigation, the lights are on for another outdoor venue downtown. A week ago, Starkville Electric strung 900 LED lights across one block of Lafayette Street between Main and Lumpkin streets in an effort to create a space for outdoor events and enhance foot traffic in the area. The "Lights at Lafayette" is a collaboration among the city, which provided in-kind services to erect the lights, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership and its affiliates, Mississippi State's Carl Small Town Center and local businesses. The total project costs about $10,000, including $3,300 for the lights. Another $6,600 was spent on bollards that can be used to block off the area from auto traffic during events. "The idea originated with our mayor trying to identify ways to provide more outdoor opportunities," Partnership CEO Mike Tagert said. "The Carl Small Town Center took her vision and translated it into a design project that we think provides opportunities for night events there."
State-funded art project at Unity Park in the design stage
A long-planned addition to Starkville's Unity Park received financial support from the Mississippi Arts Commission in August. MAC awarded the Oktibbeha County board of supervisors a $4,300 grant for a sculpture representing the idea of "nurturing the growth of tomorrow," said Dylan Karges, a member of the archaeology faculty at Mississippi State University and the artist taking the lead on the project. MAC will award a total of $1.3 million in grants statewide during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, according to a press release from Jeanne Marszalek, chair of the Unity Park Advisory Committee. Founded in 2013, Unity Park is dedicated to recognizing individuals and events that advanced civil rights both locally and nationally. Karges said the project will hopefully be finished and in place by Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18, 2021, the day the park will honor two new additions to its list of local advocates for racial justice.
Mississippians struggle to keep food on the table during COVID-19 pandemic
Hundreds of cars are wrapped around the state fairgrounds in Jackson with people waiting to receive free boxes of food. Fourteen-hundred family size boxes are being handed out as part of the USDA's Farmers to Families food box program. Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson says the program not only benefits farmers but families who are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. He says "There are families who have been impacted so severely by this virus with the loss of jobs, income, a lot of people who are still looking for work don't have work. So this is directly responsive to helping people in need, and at the same time it is filling that gap in the supply chain that existed in the spring and early summer of this year." Will Davis, Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University, says people who previously were able to afford healthy meals may have lost their jobs or a significant portion of their income. "So you are having a lot of people who are becoming food insecure who maybe weren't before. And so they're not signed up for a lot of these federal assistance programs that are meant to buffer against food insecurity," says Davis. "A lot of people that work in service-related fields are becoming food insecure at an alarming rate. And also the people who were already food insecure and already disadvantaged, it's just getting worse."
Lumber Prices Are Historically High, Customers Continue To Buy
Reports are still coming in about damage from Hurricane Laura. We do know there is some downed timber. In some cases, there are losses to timber acreage. The LSU Ag Center says companies and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry are conducting aerial surveys. This is all happening as the industry is facing a backlog in prices to show for it. Matt Dorsch is working on some home improvements as he's putting up a new fence in Northern Indiana. "We are all stuck at home and [we have to get] something to do," says Mishawaka, Indiana resident, Matt Dorsch. "Home improvement it is!" Yet, he had a harder time getting access to lumber. That's the situation for many throughout the country. According to, for the week ending August 28, lumber prices are up 50% to more than 200% over one year ago depending on the type and location. "Nationwide, they are at record levels we've never seen before," says Marc Measells, a senior extension associate with the Department of Forestry at Mississippi State University.
Monday Profile: Starkville family follows father's legacy to open meat wholesaler
The Sanders family has always been "in the cow business," as Will Sanders puts it. Will, along with his older brother Scott, his sister Leslie and his mother Linda, wished to continue the legacy of his late father David, who started working with cattle 40 years ago. That's why in February, the Sanders family opened Welcome Home Beef, a meat wholesaler, in Starkville. "We actually started selling in August before the store opened in February," Will said. "We just kind of rolled it out to friends and let them try it, and the feedback was fantastic. That's kind of how it was born." Partnered with local cattle farmers in the South that spans across seven states and a family-owned farm in Glenville, Nebraska, Welcome Home Beef sells a variety of meats at its location at 329 University Drive. "Our pork comes from Mississippi State, most of the meat in this store is from our cattle and our seafood is bought from Horseshoe Farms," Will said. "We supplement our ribeyes with 44 Farms. A lot of people don't know this about cattle, but when you kill an animal, you only get 20 ribeyes and 70 filets off of that heifer. You can imagine ribeyes are the most popular item, so we supplement our ribeyes with (meat from Texas-based beef producer) 44 Farms."
Gulf Coast residents brace for Sally, possible new hurricane
Storm-weary Gulf Coast residents prepared for a new weather onslaught Monday as Tropical Storm Sally slowly churned toward them, with forecasters predicting landfall as a hurricane. Jeffrey Gagnard of Chalmette, Louisiana, was spending Sunday in Mississippi helping his parents prepare their home for Sally -- and making sure they safely evacuated ahead of the storm. "I mean, after Katrina, anything around here and anything on the water, you're going to take serious," he said, as he loaded the back of his SUV with cases of bottled water in a grocery store parking lot in Waveland, Mississippi. "You can't take anything lightly." Mississippi officials warned that the storm was expected to coincide with high tide, leading to significant storm surge. "It needs to be understood by all of our friends in the coastal region and in south Mississippi that if you live in low-lying areas, the time to get out is early tomorrow morning," Gov. Tate Reeves said late Sunday.
Governor declares state of emergency as Tropical Storm Sally nears Mississippi
Gov. Tate Reeves signed a state of emergency declaration for Mississippi ahead of Tropical Storm Sally during a Sunday afternoon press conference. Sally is expected to intensify to hurricane status by Monday, with further strengthening possible before a Monday night landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center. Both storm surge warnings and hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Mississippi and Louisiana's coastline. "We in Mississippi are going to be on the east side of the storm where a vast majority of the winds and rainfall occur," Reeves said. Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Greg Michel also urged residents to not be complacent. "As this storm makes landfall Tuesday morning, it is going to make landfall around the same time high tide would," Michel said. "If you've been tracking the storm, it is projected to make a very sharp northeastern turn, it is going to cause the storm to stall and dump heavy rain on top of the storm surge."
Flooding in Hancock County, shelters opening on the Coast ahead of Sally
Along with high storm surge on the Coast, Sally is expected to bring flooding rains to South Mississippi. A mandatory evacuation order was issued this morning for all low lying areas of Hancock County as there are reports of streets already beginning to flood. Residents who live along rivers, river inlets, bayous, creeks and in travel trailers, modular homes, mobile homes, homes under construction and or partially constructed homes should evacuate. U.S. 90 will become impassable after sunset Monday into Tuesday and Wednesday, Rupert Lacy, Harrison County emergency management director, said in his latest update on Tropical Storm Sally. This will be a water storm and because it is so slow moving, he said it will be in the area over two high tides. There will be no low tide cycle because of the flooding. Water will backup into the Bay of Biloxi, Bay of St. Louis and area rivers, lakes and low-lying areas, he said, and people in those areas should move now to higher ground. "Flooding in the bays will be exceedingly high," he said, "and continue over the next day or two." He also warned people to prepare to be without power over the next few days.
Mississippi reports 145 new COVID-19 cases, 9 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Monday reported 145 new COVID-19 cases and nine additional deaths. The nine deaths occurred between Aug. 26 and Sept. 4 and were identified from death certificate reports. The statewide total of COVID-19 cases since March 11 now stands at 90,018 with 2,706 deaths as a result of the virus. Around 78,971 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of September 13. Several counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (3), Chickasaw (3), Clay (3), Itawamba (2), Lafayette (19), Lee (12), Monroe (3), Oktibbeha (11), Pontotoc (5), Prentiss (7), Tishomingo (1).
Statewide mask mandate extended, business restrictions loosened
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves extended his executive order calling for a statewide mask mandate until the end of September. The new order is an expansion of the one that was set to expire Monday morning. It's now set to expire at 5 p.m. on September 30. There are several changes regarding group gatherings and businesses. Retail businesses and restaurants can operate with up to 75% of the store's maximum capacity. Social distancing and cleaning protocols must still be in place. Group gatherings where social distancing is not possible are limited to 10 people inside and 50 people outside. Group gatherings where social distancing is possible are limited to 20 people indoors and 100 people outside. Restaurants can increase party size per table to 10 customers (previously 6). Buffets and self-service drink stations are allowed to reopen. Gyms can open 24 hours per day and operate with up to 75% of its maximum capacity.
Analysis: Mississippi ballot will have candidates and issues
Mississippi residents will vote on people and issues in the Nov. 3 general election. The ballot will list candidates for president, U.S. House and Senate and state Supreme Court. Three issues are on the ballot. One is the question of whether to legalize medical marijuana. Another is whether to eliminate an electoral college provision in races for governor and other statewide offices. The third is a yes-or-no vote on a single proposal for a new state flag. Because of the ballot structure, there's potential for confusion on the medical marijuana question. The second measure on this year's Mississippi ballot deals with the election process, and it got there because legislators adopted House Concurrent Resolution 47. The proposed state constitutional amendment says that winning a race for governor or any other statewide office would require a simple majority; if no candidate receives that, the race would be decided by a runoff.
NOAA taps David Legates, professor who questions the seriousness and severity of global warming, for top role
The Trump administration has tapped David Legates, an academic who has long questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is causing global warming, to help run the agency that produces much of the climate research funded by the U.S. government. Legates, a University of Delaware professor who was forced out of his role as that state's climatologist because of his controversial views, has taken a senior leadership role at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency, which oversees weather forecasting, climate research and fisheries, has until now continued its climate research and communications activities unfettered by political influence. For that, NOAA stands in stark contrast to the Environmental Protection Agency and science agencies at the Interior Department, where the Trump administration has dismissed and sidelined climate scientists or altered their work before publication. Legates's views on climate change line up squarely with those of President Trump, who has denied the existence of human-caused global warming, and blamed the ongoing climate change-fueled wildfire disaster in the West on forest mismanagement.
'Keep back!': How the Biden campaign obsesses over Covid
Joe Biden's chartered airplanes and SUVs are meticulously sprayed with disinfectant and scrubbed. The microphones, lecterns and folders he uses are wiped down in the moments before his arrival. News reporters covering the campaign have their temperature taken. People he meets are scanned in advance with thermometer wands and guests at his events are cordoned off in precise locations mapped out with a tape measure. The former vice president is seldom without a mask when in public or around anyone other than his wife, Jill Biden. Access to their home is limited to only a few staffers -- and when they're inside, each wears a mask, including Biden. The level of discipline is such that at times when someone stops to take a drink of water, that person will turn their head away from the others to reduce the chances of scattering droplets, according to campaign aides. The rationale behind the painstaking attention to safety is both personal and political. For months, aides have privately acknowledged being concerned about his health. At 77, Biden is more susceptible to the virus that causes Covid-19 and his age alone puts him at higher risk of serious complications from the illness. Yet the campaign is also committed to modeling responsible behavior.
Army Marshals Resources To Aid In Race For Coronavirus Vaccine
A supply cart rolls down the long corridors at the institute just outside Washington, D.C, past labs and displays picturing nineteenth century scientists, letters and artifacts. There are closed doors with small signs on the wall. One says "Viral diseases." Another simply, "Malaria." Inside one of these offices is the scientist heading Army efforts to aid in the race for a vaccine for the current pandemic: Kayvon Modjarrad, a civilian doctor. Modjarrad is developing the Army's coronavirus vaccines, but is also part of Operation Warp Speed, the government's efforts to help private companies in the U.S. and internationally create coronavirus vaccines. "So our institution and our network of sites here in the US and internationally are involved with many different companies," he says. The Army has a long history of producing vaccines. Modjarrad worked on vaccines for Zika and MERs. And one recently approved for Ebola. A vaccine from at least one of the private companies is expected earlier next year. The Army also continues to work on its own vaccine that can target future coronaviruses.
Violent memes and messages surging on far-left social media, a new report finds
Months of civil unrest have coincided with a significant rise in social media posts critical of police that sometimes are laced with violent themes, including calls to destroy property and attack officers, according to research released Monday morning. The report, by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), which previously has studied right-wing violence from groups such as the "boogaloo boys," warns that some left-wing groups have embraced similar social media tactics, including memes and humorous catchphrases, to spread their messages and possibly help coordinate offline activity. The researchers pointed to possible signs of such coordination associated with riots in Seattle, Portland and other cities on July 25, involving fires, looting and property damage. The report acknowledges that left-wing political actors, including those who embrace the antifa movement, have been responsible for far less violence than white supremacists and other right-wing ones -- a finding consistent with the conclusions of law enforcement and other threat analysts. But the researchers found the growing use of memes a worrying sign and argue that the spread of dehumanizing rhetoric on the left could set the stage for more serious incidents by what the report called "network-enabled mobs."
Mississippi University for Women students give a voice to coronavirus patients
Mississippi University for Women's chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association is helping give a voice to the potentially voiceless in the Golden Triangle. "Given the current circumstances, we knew the communication ability of patients was being impaired due to COVID-19. We wanted to find a way to improve their communication and also support the healthcare professionals as well," said Sarah Williams, NSSLHA chapter president. Williams, a speech-language pathology student, and fellow NSSLHA officers identified an opportunity to assist COVID-19 patients as speech-language pathologists. Using money from recent fundraising events, the students created low-tech communication boards to enable healthcare providers and families to communicate with individuals on ventilators or those too weak to use speech. The students used software from The W's Department of Speech-Language Pathology to create the communication boards then laminated the boards in order to be cleaned and reused. "Communication is not just essential for healthcare needs, it helps ward off loneliness and isolation that some patients experience during COVID-19. Patients with limited communication are three times more likely to experience a preventable adverse medical event," said Dr. Kathy Shapley, chair of the Speech-Language Pathology Department.
Dr. Deborah Birx meets with University and Oxford officials on COVID-19 response
The City of Oxford and University of Mississippi received words of encouragement and the message of staying the course in their COVID-19 response plans on Saturday. Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, met with Chancellor Glenn Boyce and Mayor Robyn Tannehill to discuss how the University and city have handled the coronavirus pandemic, along with a spike in cases, since students returned to campus last month. With new cases and hospitalization rates trending down across the state, Lafayette County has continued to be a hotspot in recent weeks, setting record highs in new daily cases a couple weeks ago. In spite of the increasing numbers, Birx commended the efforts made by Tannehill and the Board of Aldermen since the pandemic hit Lafayette County in March. Birx spoke with both Boyce and Tannehill regarding bringing back students for the fall semester, as well as keeping businesses and restaurants open. "We had very clear and concise dialogue about, really, a way forward. But, the entire South has shown us a way forward with this virus," Birx said.
Dr. Deborah Birx privately meets with university leaders about COVID-19
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited the University of Mississippi on Saturday amid recent reports that Oxford is one of the top metropolitan areas with the greatest number of new cases per capita. She also said that the report from The New York Times could be misinterpreted, and that she didn't want the report to change any threshold numbers because college towns tend to skew the rate. "1,000 cases in a university in a town of 16,000 looks very different than 1,000 cases in a town of 1.5 million," Birx said. "The potential for spread is equal, but it looks much higher." Birx spoke to the media after a closed roundtable discussion with UM leadership, state and local officials, and healthcare professionals. Birx said that she is impressed with how the university is handling the coronavirus, especially with the addition of random asymptomatic testing, which began last week.
In Mississippi visit, Dr. Deborah Birx credits masks and distancing for state's COVID-19 gains
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, met with state and local leaders at the University of Mississippi on Saturday and praised Mississippi and other states across the South for what she called "incredible work." Birx, on a tour of college campuses across the nation this week, acknowledged Oxford is one of the top cities in the U.S. for new cases per capita. She said the college town effect -- where most of the population is comprised of students -- can skew the rate, but the fact that the university is finding and isolating those cases is a good thing. "We're confident that the university is finding cases," Birx said. "We want to encourage them to find more asymptomatic spread -- but they're finding cases, they're quarantining, isolating and most importantly, they're caring for those students." On her last visit to Mississippi in mid-July, the state was in midst of a growing outbreak, but she said the recent improvements toward the end of the summer are a testament to the power of sustained behavior change.
Dr. Deborah Birx visits Ole Miss campus, praises school for COVID-19 response efforts
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, met with University of Mississippi leaders, local officials and healthcare professionals on Saturday to discuss ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Birx recently met with Gov. Tate Reeves and other state health officials in July, when the state was experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases. "We were here about eight weeks ago and Mississippi was having a really significant outbreak of COVID-19," Birx said. "Through the incredible work of everyone in Mississippi, over the last five weeks you've gone from over almost 60 counties with more than 10 percent test positivity down to 23 counties, and over 16 to 17 percent statewide test positivity to now in the eight percent range. I think this really shows the power of behavioral change, the power of these masks, and the power of social distancing." Birx spoke with University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce and other university leaders on ways to continue to decrease the spread of the virus. She said one of the ways is to increase surveillance testing.
Dr. Deborah Birx visits Alabama campus, talks football crowds, bar safety
Flanked by university and city officials on the steps of Alabama's Sid McDonald Hall, one of the more recognizable faces of the pandemic era addressed a small crowd of reporters Friday afternoon. Dr. Deborah Birx, the leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, had just met with leadership and students about the issues facing the school and surrounding community related to the virus. She complimented the barbeque, the university's response to the outbreak and looked to the future. "I can't say Roll Tide because I'm going to other SEC schools," she said with a grin at the end of her prepared remarks, "but I'll say it anyway and wish you best of luck in this football season." And, since this is Alabama, the fast-approaching football season is always front of mind. Standing a 25-minute walk from Bryant-Denny Stadium, Birx explained her views on allowing fans in football stadiums. "So, we've had very specific recommendations about social distancing and what that will undertake -- social distancing not only in the stadium itself, social distancing in entering the stadiums, social distancing for facilities and use of bathrooms in the stadiums," Birx said. "I haven't seen those plans so it's impossible for me to answer but each of those components need to be taken into context."
Dr. Deborah Birx and coronavirus team visit Tuscaloosa
On a trip visiting SEC schools and communities, Dr. Deborah Birx hit the road with her team to witness first-hand how people are actively working -- or not -- to prevent the spread of COVID-19. "We drive for a very specific reason," Birx said Friday at a news conference behind Sid McDonald Hall, on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. Birx has been coronavirus response coordinator for the White House task force since February. "We want to see what's happening at gas stations; we want to see what happens at coffee shops; we want to see what happens at restaurants; we want to see what happens when people are going around their everyday life," she said. She grew a little concerned traveling through Alabama, because while she saw many women wearing masks, the same wasn't true for all the men. "So if I could just remind the men of Alabama, you get this disease just as much as anyone else...." Birx said. And tests indicate men are actually "...more susceptible to having a more difficult outcome." On the UA campus, she spent the morning in roundtable discussions with students, including SGA members and Panhellenic leaders; administrators including UA President Stuart R. Bell and UA System Chancellor Fess St. John; and community members including Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.
U. of Alabama enrollment dips slightly in fall 2020
University of Alabama officials had hinted at it for weeks and Friday the numbers were official. Enrollment numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic dipped only slightly at the Tuscaloosa campus as in-person learning resumed. The total fall enrollment is 37,842, down 0.68% from last year's 38,103. Undergraduate students number 31,672, down 3.4% from 32,798 in the fall of 2019. On the positive side, graduate school enrollment jumped 17.7% to 5,730. The number of minority students rose with enrollment of Black students up 3.3% to 4,712 while Hispanic students gained 1.9% to 1,870. Students from the state of Alabama represent 41.4% of the total enrollment with 15,672 paying in-state tuition. Georgia has the next-highest number of UA students with 2,130 followed by Illinois' 1,535.
New Auburn Army ROTC cadets sworn in during 9/11 tribute
Standing in front of Auburn University's Samford Hall on a warm, clear Friday morning, Lt. Col. Nate Conkey addressed the group before him with a message of remembrance and one of thanks. The outdoor ceremony highlighted six new cadets willing to serve their nation and remembering the lives lost 19 years ago on a similarly clear Sept. 11 morning. "This is a big moment," said Conkey in addressing those at the day's official swearing-in ceremony for the newest cadets of the U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, at Auburn University. "Thank you for being willing to take this step. It's a benchmark to greatness." Conkey spoke about the significance of the day, recalling how on Sept. 11, 2001, he listened by radio to the day's horrifying, unfolding events and wanted to do his part to defend his country. "We absolutely have to remember," he said, adding that "in a moment on that day, lives were changed."
LSU improves among public colleges, U. S. News says
LSU stayed the same among national universities and improved compared to other public colleges in the latest rankings by U.S. News & World Report released Sunday night. The school is tied for 153rd among national universities, the same as last year. LSU is ranked 71st among public universities, up from 79th last year. "It is an honor to be consistently recognized among Tier 1 universities nationwide as the leading public university in Louisiana by U.S. News & World Report, especially in a year when so many higher education institutions are struggling due to the pandemic," LSU Interim President Thomas Galligan Jr. said in a statement. "However, rankings such as these are not how we measure our success," Galligan said. "Instead, our success at LSU is measured by our students' success, our faculty's achievements and the positive impact our research has in our community, state, nation and world, and by that measure I have no doubt that our great university is among the very best anywhere."
How Tennessee schools ranked in U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges
Several Tennessee colleges and universities received high marks in this year's U.S. News & World Report best colleges rankings, including Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Several liberal arts colleges and historically black universities in Tennessee received top ranks as well. U.S. News & World Report releases yearly rankings looking at national universities, public universities and specific programs at schools. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville was highly ranked among public schools in the country, placing at No. 52. UT was ranked No. 44 in this category last year. For national universities, UT Knoxville ranked No. 112, down from No. 104 last year. Vanderbilt University is the highest ranked Tennessee school among national universities. Vanderbilt ranked No. 14, up from No. 15 last year. Vanderbilt was also ranked the best value school among national universities in the state, at No. 9. The University of Memphis was ranked as No. 126 among public universities in the country.
U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville slips 5 spots in national ranking
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville saw its ranking slide five slots to 77th among public universities in U.S. News & World Report's national rankings published today. The annual rankings aim to measure academic quality by comparing data among schools, such as graduation rates, student-faculty ratios and spending on instruction. The university's six-year graduation rate of 66.2% for a cohort of 4,300 students fell just below the U.S. News predicted rate of 67%, according to UA data and the rankings. UA ranked 160th among public and private national universities, highest in the state. Five years ago, UA-Fayetteville ranked 62nd among public national universities in the U.S. News listing. But the rankings in recent years have placed weight on the grad rates of students receiving Pell grants, a type of federal aid given out to the neediest students. In 2018, UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said this led to a 15-slot slide in rankings for UA to 78th among public national universities.
U. of Florida is No. 6 in U.S. public universities
The University of Florida has been named the sixth best public university in the country in the U.S. News and World Report's 2021 college rankings. As of Monday, UF ties for sixth place with the University of California, Santa Barbara, with both schools improving from seventh place in 2019. The university also ranks No. 30 in the combined list of public and private universities, up from No. 34. The top five is led by the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Michigan; University of Virginia; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rankings are based on six factors: student outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, student excellence and alumni giving. Three UF undergraduate programs also moved up in ranking. The Warrington College of Business rose from No. 28 to No. 24; the College of Engineering from No. 34 to No. 32; and the computer science program within the College of Engineering debuted at No. 48 out of 481 universities.
'U.S. News' Tweaks Methodology
U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings of colleges today -- with some tweaks to the methodology, but no significant changes in those colleges ranked at the top. The main addition to the methodology was two measures of student debt: the average amount of accumulated federal loan debt among full-time undergraduate borrowers at graduation, and the percentage of full-time undergraduates in a graduating class who took out federal loans. Those measures were added to the "outcomes" section of the rankings, increasing its total value from 35 percent to 40 percent. The weights for SAT and ACT scores, high school class standing, and alumni giving were reduced.
Faculty members struggle with burnout
As a frequent commentator on all things higher ed, Kevin McClure likes his predictions to be right. But in the case of a recent article he wrote about the growing threat of faculty burnout, he wanted to be wrong. "Basically what I heard over and over again was people saying, 'That's me. This is how I feel. This gives words to the way that I'm feeling walking into fall semester,'" McClure, an associate professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said about feedback he received. "So it's a situation where many people confirmed my argument that there will be a wave of burnout -- but it does increase my level of concern." Others are sounding the alarm about faculty burnout, too. It's always a risk in academe, they say, but now more than ever. "Faculty burnout -- exacerbated by pandemic-related stressors, absent childcare and school, and unrelenting or even accelerating work expectations from colleagues -- poses real and serious risk for mental health challenges of unprecedented scope," said June Gruber, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Gov. Reeves less politicizing than President Trump on COVID-19
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Gov. Tate Reeves bemoaned the politicization of COVID-19 coronavirus last week, reported Mississippi Today. He complained that there are "certain groups that want to politicize everything." Hmmm. To whom was the governor addressing his concern? The "certain group" most politicizing the pandemic is led by his political hero, President Donald Trump. News reports aplenty, starting back in March, attest to that. ... Unlike Trump, who has now distanced himself from his top health experts, Reeves has consistently stayed closed to his. While not as fast or comprehensive as state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs might have wished, Reeves has implemented his recommendations for a statewide mask mandate, social distancing, targeted shutdowns, and other protective provisions to slow down virus contagion. Consequently, Mississippi has recently seen a much better and faster improvement in case numbers and related deaths than the U.S. as a whole. Monday Sept. 7, the state reported no coronavirus deaths for the first time since late March.
Former GOP congressman Mike Parker endorses Joe Biden, finds his legacy on November ballot
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: Mike Parker, the last Republican candidate for governor to lose in the general election, has for almost two decades been a non-factor in Mississippi politics. But in recent weeks, Parker's name has resurfaced as he joined more than two dozen former Republican congressmen across the nation in endorsing Democrat Joe Biden for president. The ghosts of Parker's political past will be on the November general election ballot in Mississippi in another way. Parker, the only candidate in state history to force Mississippi House members to cast the deciding vote on who would serve as governor, said he will vote this fall to take that responsibility away from House members. Mississippi voters will decide in November whether to remove a state Constitutional provision requiring a candidate for statewide office to win both a majority of the votes and the most votes in a majority of the state's 122 House districts.

MSU's Garrett Shrader moved from quarterback to receiver
Garrett Shrader is making the move to slot receiver. Shrader, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore, played in 10 games and started four games at quarterback for Mississippi State last season. Head coach Mike Leach confirmed the decision on Saturday after Mississippi State's second scrimmage of fall camp. He also said transfer quarterback KJ Costello from Stanford would be the starter if the team played today while true freshman Will Rogers has earned the backup quarterback role. Leach said Shrader has been very receptive and seems excited to try the new position. Shrader is a talented runner, and he proved that last season at QB. He rushed 113 times for 587 yards and six touchdowns last year, averaging 5.2 yards per rush. Along with that, Leach said he is a large body which equals a big target, can be explosive with the ball in his hands and catches the ball well. "You hate to leave his talents on the shelf," Leach said. "Those other quarterbacks, they don't have some of the gifts that Garrett does." Leach doesn't know if this will be a long-term move or not, but said it is the move right now.
Why Mike Leach switched Mississippi State's Garrett Shrader from QB to wide receiver
The Shrader-copter has spun its way back onto the field. Mississippi State sophomore Garrett Shrader's playing time was in jeopardy from the moment K.J. Costello announced his decision to transfer to MSU from Stanford. True freshman Will Rogers enrolling early and playing well in preseason training camp didn't help Shrader's cause either. But coach Mike Leach has found a way to get Shrader, who started four games at quarterback for Mississippi State last year, back between the white lines – at slot receiver. Shrader infamously launched from the 24 yard line needing to make the 19 against Kansas State last year and was spun around before landing on the 20. The play earned his teammates' respect. Now he'll have more opportunities for the Bulldogs to be bullish on him with the ball in his hands. Shrader scored two touchdowns in practice last week despite only lining up in the slot for three days. "He's looked impressive," Leach said. "He's got a sense of space and routes. He's tough to bring down. I've been kind of impressed with the way he's looked."
Mississippi State quarterback Garrett Shrader working at receiver; K.J. Costello, Will Rogers working atop the depth chart
Garrett Shrader's time under center has seemingly reached an end. After starting four games in 10 appearances a season ago while throwing for 14 touchdowns, Shrader is now working as a slot receiver, according to head coach Mike Leach, after being supplanted as the No. 2 quarterback by freshman Will Rogers. Shrader, who came to MSU rated the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class according to the 247 Sports composite rankings, saw his presence most felt as a runner last year. From his helicopter-like flight against Kansas State to the 587 rush yards he accounted for, he worked best as a dual-threat in former coach Joe Moorhead's RPO-based offense. Now under the guidance of Leach and his air raid offense, Shrader's passing limitations were magnified in camp after he completed just 57.5 percent of his 153 pass attempts last year. "The biggest thing is just getting him tuned in," Leach said of Shrader's flip to receiver. "I think he's got to get in shape because there's a different type of shape in playing quarterback than receiver where you do all the running. But no, he's looked impressive. He's got a sense of space and routes, and he's tough to bring down."
How did Southern Miss football players spend the Sept. 11 anniversary? Registering to vote
With no football game Saturday, the Southern Mississippi football team didn't need to prepare for a looming opponent Friday. So instead, several members of the football team registered to vote. "Voter registration ... (checkmark emoji)," said a tweet from the Southern Miss football Twitter account Friday afternoon. "We took full advantage of our bye-week Friday to prepare for our civic duty." The text of the tweet ended with an American flag emoji. Some of the Southern Miss football players that registered to vote are defensive back Natrone Brooks, defensive back Josh Perry, linebacker Devin Thomas and defensive lineman Tahj Sykes. New Southern Miss football interim head coach Scotty Walden praised his players for registering to vote. "Proud of our guys for taking advantage of the opportunity to let their voice be heard," Walden said in a tweet.
LSU athletes, coaches march for racial justice as athletic department displays support
In the largest social demonstration by LSU's athletic department this year, players and coaches from almost every sport marched Saturday morning around Tiger Stadium to protest racial injustice. The unity walk, organized by the Black Student-Athlete Association, brought together a couple hundred athletes and dozens of coaches as LSU athletics showed its support for social justice. Everyone present wore black "Tigers United" T-shirts provided by the school. The march began at 10:23 a.m. on the western side of Tiger Stadium, the same area where the football team began its march through campus to the university president's office two weeks ago. Some of the athletes made signs. "Racism is a pandemic too," one said. "This is a movement not a moment," read another. The protest Saturday marked the largest demonstration by LSU's athletic department since a White police officer killed George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in May, a death that sparked protests and unrest nationwide.
COVID-19 financial hit to UGA athletic budget detailed at board meeting
Georgia athletics expects to see a budget shortfall of $55 million in the current fiscal year due in large part to reduced attendance and a shortened schedule this football season caused by the pandemic. "While this is line with many of our SEC peers, these estimates could change depending on the current plan for the 2020 football season," AD Greg McGarity told the athletic board Friday afternoon at its quarterly meeting held by Zoom. "We are confident we can absorb any deficit by continuing with current cost containment measures, utilizing a portion of our reserves and potentially using the short term loan currently in place." Georgia had an operating surplus of about $31 million in the fiscal year that ended at the end of June 2019. More than three months after the UGA athletic board approved a $149.4 million budget, the reality of Sanford Stadium being filled to no more than 25 percent, a lucrative neutral site game in Atlanta being cancelled and the game against Florida in Jacksonville also taking a financial hit were among factors leading to the shortfall.
Texas A&M's 12th Man Productions could help SEC broadcast football games this season
E. King Gill would be proud. In true Aggie tradition, Texas A&M's 12th Man Productions could help the Southeastern Conference televise football games if needed this season. The SEC has a larger inventory of conference games after opting for league-only games due to the coronavirus pandemic. The SEC probably didn't envision scheduling seven league football games per weekend when it launched the SEC Network in 2014, but each school having proven state-of-the-art broadcast control rooms could come in handy. The SEC's television lineup for each of the first two weeks will feature three games on the SEC Network, two more on ESPN networks and one each on CBS and the SEC Network's alternate channel. "Every school has been tasked with just discussing where you are with the ability to possibly help with a home football game," said Andy Richardson, A&M's associate athletics director in charge of 12th Man Productions. "It doesn't mean we are going to do it ourselves. It doesn't mean that [the network] won't pull a TV truck up and do it. The reality is they are exploring their options." The award-winning 12th Man Productions would be an option.
Images of fans not wearing masks at Florida State football home opener draw criticism
Doak Campbell Stadium was at limited capacity Saturday for Florida State's football game against Georgia Tech because of COVID-19 safety protocols. However, images of many in the crowd of 17,538 not wearing masks as required has led to criticism across social media regarding the school's ability to enforce the policy. Georgia Tech rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Florida State 16-13 in the teams' nationally-televised opener. While the defeat ruined coach Mike Norvell's debut, others were upset that many fans appeared not to adhere to wearing masks while in their seats. It wasn't the look college administrators and politicians probably wanted to see as the deadly coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt lives. Several college football games have also been canceled because of COVID-19 outbreaks. "We were disappointed with some fans, particularly some student fans, at the Georgia Tech football game who did not comply with our policies regarding social distancing and wearing masks while in their seats," Florida State Athletic Director David Coburn said Sunday in a statement to the Democrat.
Big Ten might vote on restarting football as soon as Monday. Which schools most want to play?
College football's first full Saturday had wild upsets, Heisman moments and an ACC victory by ... Notre Dame. It did not have highlights from any Big Ten team. There was hope that conference presidents and chancellors would vote on a restart Sunday, but the day passed without the raising of any hands. That vote is expected early this week. Sources say the earliest restart date would be Oct. 17, which would likely allow the likes of Ohio State to compete for a national title. But with students at schools such as Wisconsin and Michigan State in quarantine because of COVID-19 spikes, would all 14 teams be ready by mid- or even late October? And if some schools are not comfortable returning, would the Big Ten go on with fewer than 14? The first vote was 11-3 to postpone all fall sports, with Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa in the #LetUsPlay group.
Trump and Biden Seek an Electoral Edge From an Unlikely Source: College Football
Kevin Warren, the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, was at his home near Minneapolis one morning this month when President Trump made a hastily arranged call to him. Warren's league had decided in August to postpone fall sports because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump had a message as rife with political considerations as athletic ones: He hoped to see football revived in the Big Ten, a Power 5 conference home to schools like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, fabled parts of a sports footprint that overlaps with many of America's presidential battleground states. "He made it very clear that he would help in any way that he possibly could to help us return to competition," Warren said on Friday evening in an interview, his first about his conversation with the president on Sept. 1. Taken together, the president's lobbying campaign, amplified with Twitter blasts, and the advertisements of former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, blaming Trump for empty stadiums signal the potential potency of college football among some voters in the coming election. The president has assuredly not forgotten the N.B.A. and the N.F.L., as he has railed against social justice protests by athletes in those leagues to try to galvanize his base of white voters. But the geography of college football's partial shutdown, a consequence of the decentralized nature of decision-making in the sport, has made gridiron politics irresistible.
Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson head most star-studded list in Sanderson Farms history
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion and still one of the greatest ball strikers in golf, has committed to play in the Sanderson Farms Championship at Country Club of Jackson Oct. 1-4. So has 2016 Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson. So has 2011 Open champ Louis Oosthuizen and 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel. Scottie Scheffler, leading candidate for 2020 PGA Tour Rookie of Year who finished fifth in the recent Tour Championship, will play here. So will Sungjae Im, the 22-year-old Korean, who won the 2020 Honda Classic and finished 11th in the Tour Championship. So will Sebastian Munoz, the defending Sanderson Farms champion, who is playing his best golf currently. We are two weeks away from what surely will be the most star-studded tournament in the 53-year history of Mississippi's PGA Tour stop. And now it seems especially a shame that no spectators will be allowed due to the pandemic. ... Such international stars as Garcia, Stenson, Im and others likely will raise TV ratings for Golf Channel's worldwide broadcast of all four rounds of the tournament.

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