Tuesday, September 29, 2020   
MSU students and faculty celebrate culture for Hispanic Heritage Month
This month, Mississippi State University is honoring its Hispanic students and faculty with multiple events and initiatives in place for National Hispanic Heritage month. The Holmes Cultural Diversity Center and the Latino Student Association along with other partners have organized many different virtual events, in-person exhibitions and social media initiatives for the celebration of Hispanic culture. Starting Sept. 15, the celebration will last a month and focus on various aspects of Hispanic culture. According to Sofia Alvarez, the LSA president and a senior studying political science, the planning and coordination of the events this month is designed to bring out the different cultures present at MSU. "We have a committee for Hispanic Heritage Month. We are trying to hold a lot of events that feature Hispanic culture. Right now in the Union, we have an art gallery featuring some architecture and artwork from Mississippi State students, and it's really, really nice," Alvarez said. Due to COVID-19 regulations of social distancing and limited social gatherings, the annual celebration has been forced to adjust accordingly. According to Kei Mamiya, the assistant director at HCDC and member of the planning committee for Hispanic Heritage month, all the normal events have been converted into virtual events via WebEx.
Habitat for Humanity, MSU spread love to Starkville family
Starkville's Habitat for Humanity spread a labor of love to a special family on Friday. The non-profit organization partnered with Mississippi State University to create the 2020 Maroon Edition House. Construction Manager John Breazeal said construction on Maroon Edition homes has occurred every fall since 2009. He said these homes receive funds from the university, along with extra hands to put the projects together. The group, along with the home's occupants, worked together Friday to install siding along the home's exterior. Chadrick Robinson and his family said they are beyond grateful to the organization and the students for their hard work.
Starkville groups partner up to provide free art supplies to kids
The Starkville Area Arts Council and The Del Rendon Foundation put on their 6th annual Art in the Park on Saturday. J. L. King Park hosted the event to promote the importance of artistic creativity among children. John Bateman is the executive director of the Starkville Area Arts Council and he said creativity was the key in allowing the event to happen. "This year because of coronavirus, we couldn't figure out how to do the social distancing because all the supplies are shared, so it's not just a matter of putting, spacing people out," explained Bateman. "What we decided to do is expand what we did last year with art boxes." One of the biggest changes to this year's Art in the Park was allowing other organizations to participate, including president of the Oktibbeha County Branch of the NAACP, Yulanda Haddix, who came to promote voter registration. "Art is the expression of our feelings. Art is also a form of communication and also a form of our voice, so art tells us a story as expressions," said Haddix. "When we go out to the poll, we cast that vote, it says something about who we are." Bateman said the underlining goal is to continue creative thinking among children.
Monday Profile: Scooter's Records still rockin' and rollin' amid pandemic uncertainty
Scott "Scooter" Thomas sits behind the register and basks in the vocals of Texas-based bluegrass group The Gourds. The tune, "Lower 48," is part of Thomas' recent kick on Longhorn State bands, though he explains he tries to flip the music playing over the speakers in his store based on the clientele walking in and out. "If Grandma and her kids are coming in, whenever I see him out the door, I'm probably not going to be playing any heavy metal," he quipped. With wrists coated in bracelets, beads and metal clasps, Thomas' denim jacket and long graying hair offer him the befitting look of a man who's record store boasts a collection of vinyl that numbers more than 10,000. The store itself, aptly named Scooter's Records, is a passion project of sorts for the Louisville native and Starkville transplant. Since 2017, Thomas has operated Scooter's Records after a 28-year run working as the city's chief water operator. In Thomas' shop, within view of the Cotton District and barely a mile away from Mississippi State's campus where he spent time as a student in the mid-to-late 1980s, the walls are coated with rock n' roll memorabilia.
COVID-related declines in oil and gas production had have a big impact
With demand for oil and gas down about 25 percent in the U.S. earlier this year due to the fallout from the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), an industry that was already experiencing overproduction has suffered a significant downturn. Mississippi's production of crude oil has been hit hard by Covid-19, said Dr. Sondra Collins, senior economist for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. "The most painful month was May 2020 when production was down almost 50 percent compared to May 2019," Collins said. "Overall, when we compare fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2020, Mississippi's crude oil production was down about 8 percent. This is based on data from the U.S. Entergy and Information Administration." However, Collins said decreased production is only half the story. Prices have decreased as well. With both state and national economies hard hit by the economic declines linked to the pandemic, it is quite likely there won't be as much investment in alternative energy sources for a while, said Dr. Dallas Breen, executive director, Stennis Institute of Government. A higher priority might be economic stimuluses to help businesses and individuals.
Sales of Mississippi lottery tickets exceeding expectations
Sales of Mississippi lottery tickets are surpassing estimates, with proceeds averaging about $10 million or more a week statewide. Since the budget year started July 1, the lottery has brought in $18.3 million for the state, after money taken out to pay out winnings and other expenses, the Sun Herald reported. Mississippi began selling lottery tickets Nov. 25 and Powerball and Mega Millions national lottery games Jan. 30. From November through June, Mississippi Lottery Corporation transferred $70.7 million in net proceeds to the state treasury, even with the coronavirus shutdown reducing sales by 10% to 13% in the early weeks. Some of the net proceeds in the beginning months were used to repay the loan taken to set up the Mississippi Lottery Corporation.
Gov. Reeves joins President Trump for 'gamechanging' rapid test announcement
Governor Tate Reeves joined President Trump at the White House this afternoon as the administration announced that the rollout of over 100 million rapid tests to states has begun. The test, developed by Abbott, does not require a machine to process it and provides a result in less than 15 minutes. Demonstrated by U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, the test is intended to benefit nursing homes, schools and other settings that require rapid, low-tech points of care. Focusing on education, President Trump explained during his remarks that when the tests are fully administered it will allow "every state to, on a very regular basis, test every teacher who needs it." During a meeting with the nation's governors and state health officers, Admiral Giroir said that the term "gamechanger" was used -- a notion echoed by Governor Reeves when he was asked by the president to speak on the deployment of the tests. Governor Reeves also commended the President's announcement of the allocation of over one million tests to HBCUs, specifically mentioning the impact this will have on Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Mississippi Valley State.
President Trump Announces Plan to Ship 150 Million Rapid Coronavirus Tests
President Trump at the White House on Monday announced a plan to distribute 150 million rapid coronavirus tests purchased by the federal government to states, tribes and other jurisdictions in the coming months. Experts praised the news as a welcome endorsement of the importance of rapid and widely available testing while the nation continues to struggle in its fight to rein in the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 204,000 people in the United States. But the test numbers cited by federal officials, experts said, are nowhere what is needed to contain the spread of the virus. "This is, it was said by Republicans and Democrats alike earlier, this is a game changer," Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, a Republican, said at the White House news conference, adding that the kits would allow teachers in his state to be tested "every single day." "We don't know anything about these tests' efficacy in asymptomatic patients," said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician at the Medical University of South Carolina. "We need to be using tests that have been validated in their performance."
Analysis: Daily average COVID-19 cases stabilizing, but volume of cases remains a concern
Over nearly two weeks, Mississippi's daily average number of coronavirus cases has stabilized at much higher levels than health experts have hoped, according to a seven-day average of new case data from the state's department of health. That information shows average cases hovering between 412 and 512 since Sept. 10, with a brief uptick at the beginning of the month. Since August, Gov. Tate Reeves told Mississippians at his COVID-19 briefings that social distancing guidelines and mask mandates would help flatten the state's curve of new cases, but some health experts had hoped for a more significant drop in cases. Instead, over the last two weeks, Mississippians testing positive for coronavirus have kept average new cases above 400 per day. Dr. Mark Horne, who serves as president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, attributes that largely to continued community spread and impatience with the social distancing and mask requirements. Now, with colder weather approaching, people spending more time indoors, and flu season beginning in a matter of weeks, Horne thinks we could see a much stronger second wave.
Mississippi: 'Fake' letter claims mask mandate abolished
A letter circulating on social media claiming to be from the office of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and abolishing the statewide mask mandate is fake, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials said Sunday. "The letter is a FAKE," the agency wrote on its Facebook page, adding that all of the governor's executive orders can be found on the Secretary of State's website. "Any major changes will be addressed in a press conference and an updated executive order." Mississippi's statewide mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 4 to stem the spread of the coronavirus. It is set to expire at 5 p.m. Wednesday unless the governor extends it. He has chosen to extend the mandate several times already. Commenting on the letter Monday, the governor's spokeswoman Renae Eze said the letter is "absolutely fake." Those looking for a "trusted source" on the governor's pandemic response should stick to the government's official websites, she said.
Mississippi seeks to dismiss lawsuit on elections amid COVID
Top officials in Mississippi are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to remove some limitations from the state's absentee voting process amid the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of State Michael Watson and Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed court papers Friday, responding to voting-rights groups that represent Mississippi residents with health conditions that could make in-person voting risky because of COVID-19. Watson and Fitch did not deny that the pandemic is causing health risks. But the two Republicans repeatedly denied other assertions made by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Mississippi requires absentee ballot applications to be notarized. The state also requires most people to provide an excuse to vote absentee, such as being out of town on Election Day. The plaintiffs are asking a judge to block those two requirements, saying those are unconstitutional.
Mississippians prepare for first presidential debate
President Trump and former Vice President Biden will debate on stage tonight in Cleveland Ohio for the first time. They will discuss their history, the coronavirus, the economy, and more. Republican strategist Henry Barbour says President Trump stands to gain supporters in Mississippi from this debate. He believes the first hour could set the tone for the remainder of the race. Barbour says "It's these middle-ground issues like public safety, securing our borders, supporting our police, but getting public safety to all Americans, and I think to some extent he needs Biden to have a few moments where he just doesn't look like he's his old self." Democratic-leaning voters have different priorities such as healthcare, job security, and racial justice issues says Mississippi Democratic Party Chair Tyree Irving. He says the debate itself may not bring many new supporters to the Biden camp in Mississippi. Irving believes many swing voters may have already decided because of what he calls the president's unfulfilled promises and coronavirus response. "I think healthcare is a big concern of Mississippian, and in addition to that employment is always a concern particularly in the African American community," says Irving. "A lot of [jobs] vanished as the lack of attention to the coronavirus situation."
Mock debates? Briefing books? How Trump and Biden are preparing for their first debate in Cleveland
Ahead of the most important debate of his political career, Joe Biden huddled with his team of senior advisers in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, last week to try to predict the moves of one of the most unpredictable men in politics, President Donald Trump. The former vice president took a break last Thursday from campaign events to ramp up debate preparation, turning to Bob Bauer, a senior Biden adviser and former White House general counsel, to play the role of Trump during mock debates. Biden's schedule remained blank Monday. Tuesday's debate at Case Western University in Cleveland -- the first of three between the two presidential candidates -- gives Biden a chance to answer the months-long assault from Trump and his allies questioning the former vice president's mental fitness. Trump has also been preparing for the Cleveland showdown. He said Sunday he has had practice sessions with the help of friends, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and that "a combination of these two" have portrayed Biden.
Slimmer coronavirus aid package introduced in House
House Democrats unveiled a $2.2 trillion pandemic relief package Monday night as part of a last-ditch attempt to secure new aid before the Nov. 3 elections. Even as talks resumed between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a potential compromise, Democrats sought to increase the public pressure by offering their own revised wish list that Republicans have said is still too costly. The White House has sought to hold the line at $1.5 trillion and some Senate Republicans have pushed to keep the price tag even lower. The new draft Democratic measure, which could get a floor vote later this week if bipartisan talks founder, amounts to a slimmed-down version of a $3.4 trillion bill the House passed in May. After brief talks over the weekend, Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke by phone again Monday and agreed to resume talks Tuesday morning, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted. Like its predecessor, the new legislation includes an extension of expanded unemployment insurance benefits, a new round of $1,200-per-adult tax rebate checks, and more money for small businesses.
One of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's favorite cases originated in Mississippi
The mammoth New York Times obituary highlighting the career and accomplishments of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited "one of her favorite cases" as M.L.B. v S.L.J. -- an obscure case that originated in chancery court in rural Benton County in north Mississippi. Ginsburg, who recently died after serving on the Supreme Court since 1993 where she solidified her legacy as a progressive icon, wrote the 6-3 majority opinion that ensured Benton County woman Melissa Brooks (M.L.B.) had the right to appeal a chancery court decision that stripped her of all parental rights of her two young children. "We place decrees forever terminating parental rights in the category of cases in which the state may not bolt the door to equal justice, recognizing that parental termination decrees are among the most severe form of state action," Ginsburg wrote in her ruling.
Dr. LouAnn Woodward speaks on the state's response to COVID-19 at honors college convocation
Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice-chancellor at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, spoke at the first of three Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College convocations on Sept. 22. Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the honors college, and Chancellor Glenn Boyce hosted the convocation where Woodward discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and how UMMC has handled it on a state level. "I have never been more proud to be in the position I'm in than in these last six months," Woodward said. Woodward said the medical center has been able to accomplish multiple feats in recent months, including making their own 'in-house' COVID-19 test, models of ventilators and pioneer research in the state of Mississippi. Since UMMC is the only university-operated medical center in the state, Woodward said she felt responsible when it came to the development of a plan for how Mississippi would handle the pandemic. Woodward encouraged students to pursue medicine, and said that they are needed now more than ever. "In light of a pandemic, young people may think about if it's worth the risk, but there has never been a better time for you to be in medicine," Woodward said.
Virtual College Fairs Offer Safe Opportunity for Students to Learn More about USM
The University of Southern Mississippi Office of Admissions has partnered with the Mississippi Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers in its continuing efforts to provide high school, adult and transfer students safe and efficient ways during the COVID-19 pandemic to learn more about what the university has to offer. MACRAO new virtual college fairs are statewide, open-registration events allowing students across Mississippi and beyond access to explore affiliated colleges and meet their representatives online. Five virtual undergraduate student fairs are set for September, October and November. "We love meeting students and their families in-person to talk about the wonderful opportunities awaiting them at USM, but we're also excited to have this safe alternative to tell them about our outstanding faculty, degree programs and incomparable student life experience," said J.R. Gerhart, director of admissions for recruitment.
Junior Auxiliary helps USM's Children's Center with landscape makeover
The Junior Auxiliary of Hattiesburg partnered with The Children's Center for Communication and Development at the University of Southern Mississippi to help give the building a landscape makeover. The project includes a complete landscape makeover at the front entrance of the building. New mulch was put down and children painted rocks to lay outside to help beautify the new garden Sunday afternoon. The Children's Center for Communication and Development is a nonprofit organization that services children with disabilities from birth to 5 years old. The center provides early intervention therapies like speech, physical and occupational therapies. "What we did was invited our typically developing peers in Junior Auxiliary, their children to come and join us in our teletherapy session on zoom," said Sarah Myers, director of the Children's Center. "And so we played together virtually and we painted some stones and we're excited today. We're going to upgrade our flower bed at The Children's Center and we are going to place those painted stones in honor of all of our friends."
Fire breaks out in oceanography building at USM Gulf Coast Research Lab
We are working to learn more about a fire that broke out late Monday at the USM Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs. The call came in sometime after 9 p.m. at the facility, which is located at the south end of Halstead Drive near East Beach. Firefighters in full gear went in and out of the oceanography building working to put out the fire. People at the scene told WLOX they weren't sure when or exactly where it started inside that building, or whether or not anyone was inside when it broke out. It's also unclear how much damage the research lab received. We are waiting to hear back from USM officials and will update this story once we know more.
East Central Community College to break ground Oct. 13 on Thomas W. Carson Band Hall
East Central Community College in Decatur will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 13, to mark the beginning of construction on the new Thomas W. Carson Band Hall on campus. The 3 p.m. ceremony will be held at the future site of the 13,000 square-foot facility on the north side of the Vickers Fine Arts Center. Visitors are asked to use the parking lot to the east of the Vickers Center, which was formerly the college's tennis courts. The late Carson was associated with East Central for more than half his life, including two years as a student and 30 years as Director of Bands and music instructor. He passed away on May 6, 2013, at age 57. The estimated $3.5 million Thomas W. Carson Band Hall will house the Wall O' Sound Marching Band practice hall, music practice studios, music teaching studios, instrument storage, a music library, and office space.
Greeks face two drugging allegations
On Sept. 11, the Department of Campus Safety and Security sent a safety advisory to Auburn students and employees informing them that two women believed they had been involuntarily drugged while at unauthorized fraternity gatherings. "We received two reports in the past week in which students believe they were involuntarily given a drug at unauthorized fraternity-related gatherings," the email said. "One reported losing control of her body after drinking two alcoholic beverages. The other report was an anonymous report that did not provide details." The email then detailed what steps an individual who believes he or she has been drugged should take and reminded people that "giving someone a drug without their permission is considered aggravated assault and is a felony." Nick Wiard, director of Student Conduct, and Eric Smith, director of Health Promotion and Wellness, said that more so than any particular punishment, the best way to stop druggings at events is by changing the culture which they are currently taking place in. "An issue like an alleged drugging or another aggravated assault, whether it's a fight, or it's a public intoxication where someone is really bad off -- no matter the situation -- we want to be able to get out in front of those situations," Wiard said. "We want to make sure that other students are intervening because they're in those spaces."
U. of Georgia grapples with student discrimination complaints
The University of Georgia has faced criticism in recent days from Black and Hispanic student leaders and organizations that it has not adequately responded to discrimination complaints. The complaints stem from incidents involving crude images, sexist language and racial slurs, the students say. They want leadership at the state's flagship university to enact measures that result in a better learning environment for students of color. Similar situations are occurring at several colleges and universities as experts say more students are willing to report their accusations, sparked by the ongoing demonstrations on racial injustice in many parts of the country. On Friday, about 200 protesters marched on and around the campus demanding continuous diversity training for campus police, renaming buildings whose names have racist origins and other actions. The University System of Georgia in June created a task force to review building names at all of its public colleges and universities.
Colleges: Financial Toll of Coronavirus Worse Than Anticipated
The coronavirus pandemic has taken an even deeper financial toll on colleges and universities than expected, said associations representing two- and four-year institutions. In a letter to House of Representatives leaders, the groups nearly tripled the amount of help they say is needed from Congress in another aid package, to at least $120 billion. The letter sent by the American Council on Education and 45 other higher education groups to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarthy comes as House Democrats are planning to vote, possibly this week, on another bid to try to dislodge the stalemate over additional aid. Democrats are expected to propose a $2.3 trillion package, which would be $1 trillion less than the $3.3 trillion proposal they made for another aid bill in passing the HEROES Act in May. However, the White House has said it would not go along with another package above $1.5 trillion, and a deal is still considered unlikely. House Democrats, though, late on Monday unveiled a package that proposes only about $39 billion for postsecondary education. In the letter, the groups say that far more is needed than the $27 billion contained in the HEROES Act or the $46.6 billion the groups had previously sought.
More than Half of College Students Self-Censor When Race and Other Tough Topics Come Up, Survey Finds
Race, abortion, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are among the most uncomfortable topics for college students to discuss, according to a report on a survey of nearly 20,000 full-time undergraduate students at 55 four-year colleges and universities. The report, "2020 College Free Speech Rankings: What's the Climate for Free Speech on America's College Campuses," released on Tuesday, says that about six out of 10 students said they censored themselves on these and other thorny issues out of fear of how others would react. The survey was administered between April 1 and May 28 by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, College Pulse, and RealClearEducation. FIRE described the report, which was underwritten by the Charles Koch Institute, as the largest-ever free-speech survey of college students and the first ranking of free-speech climates at dozens of leading colleges. About 60 percent of students kept an opinion to themselves because they were afraid of how students, a professor, or an administrator would respond. For those who identified as "strong Republicans" the percentage was highest -- at 75 percent -- and for "strong Democrats," it was 52 percent. Black students were most likely to report a time when they kept views to themselves.
FIRE report: students are censoring their opinions
A large survey about free speech and expression on college campuses found that students, especially those in the political minority at an institution, are censoring or editing what they say and are uncomfortable and reluctant to challenge peers and professors on controversial topics. Sixty percent of students have at one point felt they couldn't express an opinion on campus because they feared how other students, professors or college administrators would respond, according to a survey report published Tuesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a campus civil liberties watchdog group, and RealClearEducation, an online news service. The survey of 19,969 undergraduate students from 55 colleges and universities was administered from April to May by College Pulse, a research company. Robert Shibley, executive director of FIRE, noted that report's goal is to provide prospective students and their parents with a tool to measure the political and cultural climate of individual college campuses and help them gauge whether an institution is friendly to free speech and open debate.
College acceptance rates for transfer students may rise due to coronavirus
If you are thinking of switching colleges, the coronavirus crisis could give you a leg up. With a number of undergraduates sitting this semester out, and many international students unable to enter the U.S., some colleges and universities are well below their enrollment numbers for the 2020-2021 academic year. "This has proven to be a boon for students wanting to change schools," said Christopher Rim, founder and CEO of Command Education. "Many are taking advantage of the lack of competition, knowing that schools have too many openings and not enough enrolled." Six in 10 admissions officials said they were "very concerned" about meeting their institution's enrollment goals for this fall, while another 30% said they were "concerned," according to a recent survey of college and university admissions officers by Inside Higher Ed. More than three-quarters, or 78%, of colleges said they would increase recruitment of transfer students, the report found.
Campus life sans Covid: A few colleges write the playbook for pandemic success
At Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, just one coronavirus case has emerged from more than 11,500 campus tests administered since August. The flagship University of Connecticut system reports 64 cases among the 5,000-student residential population on its Storrs campus. Clark University in central Massachusetts just spotted its first potential case in more than a month, while a few pricey private colleges in New York also report few infections since the start of the semester. Several universities have resumed in-person classes and invited students back to live on or near campus this semester while logging few infections, even as other institutions struggle to halt outbreaks or rely on virtual education. These early case studies hint at a potential path to recovery for a bruised higher education industry, as the virus continues to spread across the country and the death toll rises. Each campus is different. Covid-19 is still a newly discovered pathogen. But a combination of low infection rates in communities that surround schools and multimillion-dollar pandemic management strategies appear to slash the opportunities for the disease to enter campus and fester among students and staff.
College students with children are overwhelmed this school year
This is a school year like no other. The demands of remote learning and the lingering threat of the novel coronavirus has placed tremendous stress on college students across the country. But for those who are juggling their studies with helping their school-aged children navigate virtual classes, this semester can be overwhelming. Colleges and universities have long struggled to meet the needs of the estimated 4.3 million undergraduates -- about one in five -- with children. Few have policies and facilities to support student parents and even those that do often find their resources stretched thin. Advocates say schools and policymakers must prioritize this vulnerable population as the pandemic has laid bare the precarious nature of pursuing a degree while raising a family. Many college students with children were teetering on the edge of poverty before the pandemic, working low-wage jobs while taking classes, according to the nonprofit Institute for Women's Policy Research. Now, they are facing greater financial strain as the economic downturn unleashed by the coronavirus has given rise to layoffs, furloughs and reduced work hours. The institute found that many student parents also have limited broadband access and inadequate technology to meet the demands of remote learning.

How Mike Leach thinks Mississippi State can be better against Arkansas
Mike Leach lived by the 24-hour rule last weekend. One day after Mississippi State's 44-34 victory over then-No. 5 LSU, the Bulldogs were back at work in the weight room preparing for their second game of the season against Arkansas this Saturday. It was the first time Mississippi State had ever beaten a top-5 opponent on the road, but that only mattered for one day. Leach's team, now ranked No. 14 in the Amway Coaches Poll, still has nine SEC games to play, the next of which is in a matter of days. Time to move on. "We officially try to seal it up after our Sunday practice," Leach said. "We constantly reinforce it. We also try to get some of the team leaders to enforce it with the rest of the group. Just focus on the next task at hand." That task is beating an Arkansas team that hung tough with then-No. 3 Georgia for two and a half quarters before being blown out 37-10. Arkansas had a 10-5 lead midway through the third quarter. "They just flat out took a half away from Georgia," Leach said. "I thought that was quite impressive."
Mike Leach battling complacency, mask wearing ahead of Week 2 matchup with Arkansas
Mike Leach hasn't had to preach on complacency much since returning from Baton Rouge. Following a startling upset of then-No. 6 LSU Saturday, Leach said Monday his team arrived back in Starkville motivated and eager to attack the practice field and weight room ahead of their Week Two contest against Arkansas. In 18 years as a head coach split between Texas Tech, Washington State and, now, Mississippi State, Leach has six wins over top-10 teams including his most recent over the Tigers. But perhaps as impressive is his record the week after an upset. Of the five previous games, one was a bowl game and thus ended the season. That said, in Leach's four top-10 regular season victories, his teams were 3-1 against their following opponent, outscoring the opposition the 135-118 -- a stat that proves more impressive not including Texas Tech's 60-15 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma in 2002 one week after beating No. 4 Texas. "The biggest thing is constant emphasis and it starts in the weight room on Sunday," Leach said Monday. "Everybody, the other teams have talked about the 24-hour rule. Let it go after 24 hours and then we officially try to seal it up after our Sunday practice and then constantly reinforce it." Further, Leach was quick to note his squad wasn't perfect in Saturday's win.
Mississippi State QB KJ Costello tabbed Offensive Player of the Week
Mississippi State quarterback KJ Costello was named the Southeastern Conference's Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. Costello, who was making his debut for the Bulldogs, completed 36 of 60 passes for 623 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He led Mississippi State to a win over then No. 6-ranked LSU, 44-34. His 623 passing yards set both the Mississippi State school record and the SEC's single-game record for passing yards. It is the first time a quarterback has ever surpassed 600 passing yards in SEC history. His 623 yards also ranks 11th highest in NCAA history. The 36 pass completions and 60 pass attempts were both school records, and his five passing touchdowns tied the MSU record. Costello is the first Mississippi State player to earn Player of the Week honors since Kylin Hill was tabbed last year for his efforts against Arkansas.
'Homage to politicians': Mississippi State coach Mike Leach speaks on COVID-19 face masks
Mike Leach was in CBS' camera shot a whole lot during Mississippi State's upset of then-No. 5 LSU. Just about every time, his COVID-19 protective face covering was wrapped around his neck. Leach was asked why that was during his Monday press conference. Here's the whole exchange between Leach and the reporter, Alan Blinder of the New York Times.
Mike Leach: 'Nick (Saban) does seem like the type of guy that would really get into some costume play'
Mike Leach continues to produce sometimes-odd but always-entertaining dialogue. On Monday -- two days removed from his Bulldogs upsetting No. 6 LSU 44-34 on Saturday and this entertaining quip -- the Mississippi State coach took to social media to invite you to join the State bandwagon, literally. He also said Alabama coach Nick Saban seems like a guy that would like costume play. Just another day of the week for the eccentric Leach. So, let's provide some context. The Bulldogs are riding the momentum K.J. Costello passing for an SEC record 623 yards and five touchdowns Saturday by putting Leach on a bandwagon, literally, and tweeting it out to let you know there is plenty of room for you. Meanwhile, Leach joined OutKick's Clay Travis to talk about a number of things, including playing Alabama on Oct. 31. The question: "Have you ever thought about dressing up on the sideline for a game? And what do you think the psychological value would be? Both for your team and what do you think Nick Saban would think if for instance, he looked across the field, and you were dressed as a pirate? Or, you know, some other choice of a costume to coach against him?" Leach's response: "You know, I don't know. I haven't really thought about that. That'd be kind of wild. Nick does seem like the type of guy that would really get into some costume play, though."
Hogs look for fixes ahead of Mississippi State
While the Arkansas Razorbacks were playing two wildly different halves Saturday in their season-opening loss to No. 4 Georgia, a legend was being born in Baton Rouge. In the Mississippi State debut of Coach Mike Leach, quarterback K.J. Costello lit up defending national champion LSU for 623 passing yards in a 44-34 shootout win on the bayou. Mississippi State soared into both national rankings, landing at No. 16 in The Associated Press poll and No. 14 in the USA Today coaches poll. So that will give the Razorbacks (0-1) a chance to face all eight ranked SEC teams -- all in the top 21 -- on its specially crafted 10-game league schedule. Arkansas will continue its trek through the top 25 on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on the road against Mississippi State, which has won seven of the last eight games in the series once dominated by the Hogs. Arkansas will open a season with consecutive games against teams ranked in the AP poll for the first time. Mississippi State, reveling in its upset, released a promo video with Leach sitting in an old-timey wagon, flying a maroon Bulldog-themed pirate flag, saying there was room on their bandwagon. Meanwhile, first-year University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman was evaluating the pros and cons from Saturday's 37-10 loss to Georgia.
LSU fans largely followed coronavirus protocols, but 'we need to get better at wearing masks'
LSU officials plan to promote greater mask-wearing inside Tiger Stadium following Saturday's football home opener that disappointed state leaders, not because of the final score but because not all fans in the stands kept their masks on. Ahead of the Tigers' season opener Saturday, LSU announced a mountain of health and safety measures related to the coronavirus pandemic, including capping fan attendance to 25% capacity at Tiger Stadium, banning tailgating and requiring face-coverings for fans unless they were eating or drinking. Images captured by The Advocate and television broadcasts of Saturday's game against Mississippi State show, in some cases, little mask-wearing among the more than 21,000 who attended. Some even had their masks lowered around their chin and neck. LSU's Senior Associate Athletic Director Robert Munson said that he, too, noticed some fans removed their masks in the stands, but noted that many of them didn't move from their assigned seats, which were physically distanced from other groups who went to the game together.
Students will have first crack at tickets again for Auburn's game with Arkansas
Current Auburn students will have first dibs on general seating tickets when the football team returns to Jordan-Hare Stadium for its next home game against Arkansas on Oct. 10, as part of an attendance plan similar to the one used last Saturday for the Tigers' home opener with Kentucky. Auburn sent emails to students Monday instructing them to order tickets by Thursday. If any are left over, they'll be sold to donors, a team spokesperson said. Only students were allowed in the general seating area last Saturday, with Jordan-Hare's capacity cut down around to around 20-percent of usual in order to allow for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Auburn placed cushioned seats with chair backs usually sold at the games in separated clusters throughout the stadium, only allowing students to sit in them and not the bleachers between. Students were joined in the stands only by the Auburn marching band and a selection of supporters from team lists, made up mostly of players' parents. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and his players raved after the game about how involved the students were in the stands despite being required to wear masks, and about how they created a positive gameday environment despite the circumstances.
Vanderbilt allowing limited number of students to attend home game against LSU
Upon further review, Vanderbilt will allow a limited number of students to attend home football games, beginning with Saturday's home opener against LSU. Initially, Vanderbilt was the only SEC school to not permit fans to attend home games, at least during October, due to COVID-19 concerns. Other SEC schools are permitting between 20% and 25% capacity. But on Monday, Vanderbilt announced a change to its policy. It comes after Mayor John Cooper announced that Nashville will move to "Phase 3" of its reopening roadmap on Thursday and 10% capacity of fans permitted at the Titans' home game against the Steelers at Nissan Stadium on Sunday. "As part of our ongoing efforts, we've decided to allow a very limited number of Vanderbilt students to attend the Oct. 3 game and cheer on our student-athletes," athletics director Candice Lee said in a statement. "This is a small step toward normalcy based on guidance from our public health partners, but we are not taking it lightly. We will work to ensure the health and safety of the Vanderbilt community as much as possible."
Big Ten football is coming back -- but how safe will it be for players and fans?
Four FBS conferences postponed fall sports because of COVID-19 concerns last month. Several football games scheduled in conferences that have been playing were postponed or canceled. Outbreaks have occurred on numerous campuses nationwide. But games continued in the ACC and Big 12, and a push from many fans, players, coaches, players' parents and President Donald Trump urged conferences such as the Big Ten to reconsider. It worked. All 10 FBS conferences will be on the field this fall. The Big Ten laid out plans for rigorous daily testing and cardiac MRI scans as it gears up for the late October start. Athletes who test positive will sit out 21 days, and teams with a positivity test rate of more than 5% and an individual rate greater than 7.5% must stop games and practices for seven days. Will it be enough as the nation tops 204,000 deaths and teams in various conferences continue to halt practices after outbreaks? Medical and health experts answered some of the most prevalent questions. Some responses have been edited for clarity.
Purdue suspends 13 athletes for party that violated COVID-19 pledge
Purdue gave 14 students, including 13 student-athletes, until Wednesday to clear out of their residence hall rooms after being suspended, accused of having a party that violated the university's coronavirus-era Protect Purdue Pledge, the dean of students announced Monday. Dean of Students Katie Sermersheim did not name the students, where they lived or which sports the student-athletes play. Purdue athletics issued a statement saying the 13 are "out-of-season student-athletes." The university also did not say whether the students were among the 801 who had tested positive for COVID-19 on campus since Aug. 1. In a release issued by Purdue, Sermersheim said University Residences staff found the group having a party in a campus dorm on Saturday. She said they were summarily suspended from the university. She said the students would have a chance to appeal. The suspensions were the second round reported on the West Lafayette campus -- and the first since before classes started Aug. 24 -- after Purdue President Mitch Daniels installed the Protect Purdue Pledge into the university's student code.

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