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April 29, 2016

Laremy Tunsil's Scandals Take Over First Round of the NFL Draft

By bryanflynn

Here's a quick rundown of what happened during the first round of the NFL Draft: The Los Angeles Rams made University of California quarterback Jared Goff the No. 1 overall pick, and the Philadelphia Eagles took Carson Wentz, a quarterback out of North Dakota State University, making him the No. 2 pick.

After Goff and Wentz went in the draft, all eyes fell on University of Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. In fact, it was a terrible night for Tunsil and got worse as the night went along.

Shortly before the draft started, a video on Tunsil’s Twitter account, which was hacked, showed someone who was wearing a gas mask. later confirmed to be Tunsil, taking hits from a bong. It didn’t take long for the video to go viral and for ESPN and NFL Network to begin discussing it and what it would mean for him.

Before the draft, Tunsil was considered to be one of the top players in the draft, and many thought he would be the first player to hear his name called. After the video got out, he began to fall down as reports came out that teams had taken Tunsil off their draft board.

Instead of being the first tackle picked, Tunsil watched as the Baltimore Ravens drafted Ronnie Stanley out the University of Notre Dame in the sixth pick, and the Tennessee Titans drafted Jack Conklin out of Michigan State University in the eighth pick.

The Miami Dolphins finally stopped Tunsil’s drop by taking him with the 13th pick. Tunsil was supposed to be a top-five pick, but he didn’t even go in the top 10.

The first reports said that the video of Tunsil was five years old, but then it changed to two years old. But it didn’t matter when the video was taken. The damage was done, and it cost him millions.

The top pick in the draft will sign for about $28.5 million, and the fifth will sign for about $24 million. Falling all the way down to the 13th pick means Tunsil will sign for about $13 million.

The video cost him $10 to $15 million in salary in his first contract.

But his bad night wasn’t over. After the Dolphins selected him, a post on his Instagram account showed the offensive tackle asking a coach for money.

That post came up during his first press conference.

A reporter asked a visibly sweating Tunsil about the conversation with his coach over money. At first he denied that it happened, but in a follow-up question, he said he did ask and took money.

The money reports said he did it to pay bills and rent. Tunsil already had to sit out games last season for the Rebels due to receiving improper benefits. The day before the draft, reports surfaced that his stepfather, Lindsey Miller, filed a lawsuit against the offensive tackle ...

April 28, 2016

Looking to the NFL Draft

By bryanflynn

Day one of the NFL Draft begins tonight with the first round and continues Friday and finishes on Sunday. This could be one of the wildest in recent memory, with the first two picks having already been traded.

In the remaining few hours before the draft, pass the time by reading as many mock drafts as you can if you don’t have a feel for the players. The best teams are able to build through and add free agents to become a title contender.

All the first-round action begins at 7 p.m. CST on ESPN and the NFL Network. Here’s what to watch for mainly tonight but a couple things throughout the draft.

Which quarterback do the Los Angeles Rams select?

It is hard to remember that the Rams are back in L.A. again. But they are, and they traded with the Tennessee Titans to get the top pick.

L.A. is going to draft a quarterback, but the question is, will it be Carson Wentz or Jared Goff? Whichever quarterback the Rams choose leaves the other for the Philadelphia Eagles, who traded with the Cleveland Browns for the second pick.

What will San Diego and Dallas do with picks at three and four?

The real intrigue of this draft begins with the Chargers and Cowboys. Both teams could make a pick on offense or defense. San Diego and Dallas could also start a run on defensive linemen since both teams need help in the trenches on the defensive side.

If the right deal comes along, either team could be enticed into a trade. Both could in fact move back in the draft if the teams that need a quarterback decide to move up.

Will the Browns and 49ers draft a quarterback?

After nearly two decades, Cleveland is still trying to find who will be the man under center. San Francisco might be ready to move from Colin Kaepernick and start fresh at quarterback.

The 49ers have the seventh pick, and the Browns follow with the eighth pick. Both teams have plenty of holes to fill, so they could pass on a quarterback in this round to pick one up later.

If both the Browns and 49ers take a quarterback, it could cause a run on the other ones in the draft.

Will the Saints take a quarterback or defensive player?

There is some thought that the Saints could go after a quarterback in the first round. New Orleans really needs defensive help like a pass rusher or in the secondary if they want to make a run at a title with Drew Brees.

On the other hand, Brees won’t play forever, so when do you get his replacement if you don’t think you already have him on the roster? This would be a classic build for the future or a play--for-right-now spot for the Saints.

More quarterbacks late in round one?

Two other teams ...

April 28, 2016

Rep. Kimberly Campbell to Leave House of Representatives

By adreher

Rep. Kimberly Campbell, D-Jackson, will leave the Mississippi House of Representatives by the end of May. She broke the news on her Facebook page last night, announcing that she had accepted the role of state director of AARP in Mississippi.

Campbell represents District 72, which includes parts of northwest Jackson, and she served in the House for almost nine years. In her Facebook post, Campbell said she was leaving on he own terms. Parts of Campbell's Facebook post is reproduced below:

"Having held Vice-Chairman roles under both Democratic and Republican leadership in the House, I have been committed to working across partisan lines to better all of the citizens of MS. However, there are seasons we all find ourselves. This is my season for change. My work at the State House is complete. It's time to release the reins for someone else to have an opportunity to serve and lead District 72. I will ALWAYS love the citizens of House District 72. But when God says, 'move'... You must heed his call! There are some offers, you just CANNOT refuse! I'll be resigning from the House of Representatives by the close of May."

April 27, 2016

Are the Saints and Brees Playing Chicken Before the Draft?

By bryanflynn

Some interesting things have come out of New Orleans over the past few days. Both the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees seem to be trying to position themselves for some possible post-draft fallout.

By now, nearly every Saints fan knows that Brees currently has a $30 million salary number cap for this upcoming season. This is also the final year of his current contract with New Orleans.

The next few stories are why this is so interesting.

When the Carolina Panthers suddenly rescinded their franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman, making him an unrestricted free agent, it quickly became apparent that Washington and New Orleans were his top destination options.

Norman signed with Washington instead of New Orleans, but after Norman was off the market, ESPN reported that Brees was willing to rework his deal so the Saints could sign the star cornerback.

Neither side has said it had a contract deal in place after Norman signed with Washington. But could Brees have worked out a deal in a few short hours to give the Saints room to sign Norman?

Then, there was this: Just this week, Ian Rapoport said the Saints were looking to move up to the number-one pick before a trade was made between the Los Angeles Rams and the Tennessee Titans.

Brees said in an interview on “The Rich Eisen Show” that he doubts the Saints tried to make a move for the top pick. New Orleans General Manager Mickey Loomis also said the report was false during a recent press conference.

Rapoport, in the same story, reported that the Saints were also interested in possibly moving up from the 12th pick to inside the top 10 to draft former University of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.

If you don’t remember, the Saints spent a third-round draft choice on Garrett Grayson last year. Grayson just rode the pine after the preseason, mainly as the Saints’ third-string quarterback.

The theory that New Orleans might want to draft a quarterback in the first round raises some questions.

Would the Saints want to sign Brees to a contract of three or fewer years if they draft a quarterback in the first round?

Will the Saints let Brees play out this season and then move on from the future Hall of Fame signal caller?

Will New Orleans rework Brees’ deal so they can trade him once his salary is more trade-friendly?

Even if the Saints rework Brees’ deal and draft a quarterback, is the club saying the Super Bowl window is closed with Brees?

Do the Saints want to rework Brees’ deal and make a couple of final runs at a Super Bowl?

Is this all really a pre-draft smokescreen that the Saints are using to work a better deal with Brees?

Let’s take a look at each question.

If the Saints take a quarterback in the first round, they ...

April 26, 2016

Rebels and Bulldogs Battle in Pearl

By bryanflynn

Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi travel to Pearl’s Trustmark Park to play for the Governor’s Cup tonight. Both teams are ranked to varying degrees in every major college-baseball poll, with MSU reaching as high has third place and the Rebels as high as ninth.

The Bulldogs come into the game after taking two of three wins from Louisiana State University over the weekend to move to 27-13-1 overall and 10-8 in the SEC. UM just got a huge sweep of Auburn University, which moved the Rebels to 31-10 overall and 10-8 in SEC play.

Both teams are tied with LSU for second place in the SEC West and two games behind division leading Texas A&M University. In RPI, the Rebels are ranked fifth and MSU is ranked 13th.

These teams have been meeting in the Jackson area since 1980, when Dale Danks Jr., then mayor of Jackson, started the Mayor’s Trophy. The game moved to Trustmark Park in 2007 and was renamed the Governor's Cup.

This will be the 37th meeting in the Mayor’s Trophy/Governor’s Cup series, with both teams tied at 18-18 heading into the game tonight. MSU does have a 5-4 edge since the game was renamed to the Governor's Cup, though.

Last season, the Rebels pounded the Bulldogs 11-1 for UM’s largest victory in the series. MSU leads the all-time series 246-205-5 and is 31-27-1 in neutral-site games.

This season, MSU took two of three games in the SEC series when these teams played in Starkville. The Bulldogs will also be the home team tonight, as the team will probably hand the ball to freshman Ryan Cyr, and the Rebels are likely to counter with junior Chad Smith on the mound.

Besides the state bragging rights, this game also provides momentum for the final stretch of the regular season. Both teams only have four conference series left before the SEC Tournament kicks off in late May.

After this game, the Bulldogs travel to Alabama (9-9 in SEC play), and the Rebels host the aforementioned LSU Tigers in Oxford this weekend. UM might need the momentum more with SEC series against the University of Georgia, the University of Kentucky and Texas A&M to end the season.

MSU’s schedule gets easier in the final weeks. The Bulldogs face the University of Missouri, last place in the SEC East, then Auburn, last place in the SEC West, and end the season at the University of Arkansas, second to last in the SEC West.

Currently only general-admission/standing-room-only tickets remain for tonight’s game. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the game starts at 6:30 p.m.

If you can’t catch tonight game in person, it will be broadcasted on the SEC Network starting at 6:30 p.m.

*UPDATE* This game is now sold out.

April 26, 2016

Prominent LGBT Attorney Gives State May 2 Deadline Before Lawsuit: HB1523 Raises 'Serious Concerns'

By adreher

New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan, who litigated and won the case to end Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage, sent a letter to Mississippi leaders regarding House Bill 1523 on Monday, Slate reported, saying she and her legal team at Paul, Weiss LLC had "serious concerns" about the bill violating a permanent injunction issued last July in the Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant case.

The letter states that "the July 2015 injunction requires that Mississippi, in accordance with the dictates of the United States Constitution, treat any gay or lesbian couple that seeks to marry the same as any straight couple that seeks to do so." The letter was addressed to Gov. Phil Bryant, Attorney General Jim Hood and Judy Moulder at the State Registrar for Vital Records. Kaplan asks that they ensure that the 2015 injunction is complied with and that those state officers provide them with:

  • notices for any individual who has filed recusal notices pursuant to HB 1523
  • a full and complete explanation of all steps that each individual seeking recusal (or any person acting on behalf of that individual, including in a supervisory capacity) will take to ensure that gay and lesbian couples are not impeded or delayed when seeking to marry in the relevant county
  • whether the individual seeking recusal intends to continue issuing marriage licenses to straight couples, while at the same time refusing to participate in issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples

Kaplan also asks Mississippi leaders to "agree to provide us with this same information in connection with any clerks who seek to recuse themselves in the future within one week after such information becomes available."

In her letter, Kaplan sets a deadline of May 2, 2016, for state officers to comply with their request "either in whole or in part, so we can be in a position to evaluate whether we will need to seek further relief from the Court."

April 26, 2016

MDE Report: Mississippi Graduation Rate Swells, Dropout Rate Falters

By sierramannie

The Mississippi Department of Education reports that Mississippi's graduation rates have seen significant improvement between 2011 and 2015.

"Districts showed a four-year graduation rate of 78.4 percent for the 2014-15 school year, up from 74.5 (percent) in the 2013-14 school (year)," an April 26, 2016 MDE press release said. The press release also reports America's high schoolers as having graduated at a rate of 82 percent for the 2013-2014 school year.

Dropout rates were down to 12.8 percent in the 2014-2015 school year from 13.9 percent the school year prior. National Center for Education Statistics reports the percentage of high school dropouts as 6.8 percent in 2013.

Mississippi's graduation and dropout rate figures are based on students who entered 9th grade for the first time as of the 2010-2011 school year.

“Those efforts, as well as the Mississippi Department of Education providing more technical assistance to districts and school counselors to help students explore multiple pathways to college and careers, have contributed to dramatic decreases in students leaving school and increases in graduation,” Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education said in the press release. “However, there are districts in the state that still struggle to keep students on the path to a high school diploma, which means we have more work to do.”

The graduation rate for students with disabilities was 27.5 percent.

"We are far from where we need to be when it comes to graduation rates for students with disabilities. The MDE will continue to provide technical assistance to districts to help them support the educational needs of all students,” Wright said in the press release.

Read the full press release, which includes a link to MDE's full report, here.

April 25, 2016

Rare News Out of the NFL Combine

By bryanflynn

Something so rare happened today that ESPN reporter Adam Schefter couldn’t remember how long it had been since it last happened. For the first time in a long time, none of the players invited to the NFL Combine failed the drug test.

This was good news for the players who teams considered to have “red flags,” but this was also good news for teams who liked players who made questionable decisions in their past.

Players can have a red flag for something as simple as not being voted as team captain, such as Michigan State University quarterback Connor Cook, or as serious as sexual assault charges, such as Bowling Green University Roger Lewis.

A player can also get a red flag for falling out a hotel window, as former University of Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche did. After this incident, Nkemdiche went from top 10 pick to questions of, “How far will he fall in this week’s draft?”

Each NFL team will decide if a red flag matters before drafting a player. The talent of said player will also have an impact on whether a team will draft him.

That is to say, in most cases, the more talent a player has, the more room he has to mess up.

So, why is it important that no players failed the drug test at the NFL Combine? That’s because it is more than just a drug test.

The test gives teams a chance to look at the decision-making of future draft picks. When a player goes to the combine, he knows that he is going to be tested for drug usage, so failing that drug test means more than failing a random drug test in college.

Teams want to know why a player would fail a test that he knew he would have to take when he showed up. When you are talking about giving certain players millions of dollars, this becomes an important factor for teams.

No players failing the drug test is good for the athletes, as well. According to ESPN, no player with a failed drug test has been selected in the first round since 2010.

Failing out of the first round is a loss of money for each spot a player drops. That still doesn’t mean a player won’t fall out of the first round of this year’s draft because of a red flag, but it does mean that he won’t fall because of this particularly avoidable trap.

Last year, University of Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory failed a drug test at the NFL Combine and went from a first-round pick to a second-round pick. Failing a drug test could even force a player to drop out of the draft and become an undrafted rookie free agent.

While not failing a drug test won’t be the reason Nkemdiche falls in the draft, his statements in a pre-draft interview, in which he said ...

April 23, 2016

Traffic Delays for First Lady's Commencement Speech

By Maya Miller

It's graduation day for Jackson State University, and First Lady Michelle Obama will be the featured speaker for the commencement ceremony. 55,000 people are expected to attend, and with large numbers comes major traffic delays.

Below is a verbatim statement from The Fondren Renaissance welcoming the First Lady and warning residents of traffic delays:

*55,000 people are expected to attend Jackson State University‘s commencement on Saturday, a ticketed, not “general admission” event. First Lady Michelle Obama will be the featured speaker for the ceremony that begins at 3pm at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium.

As with any visitor of Mrs. Obama’s caliber, major traffic delays will begin on Saturday as early as 9am. (No streets will be affected on Friday).

Jackson Police Department District Commander James McGowan said by phone Lakeland Drive should not be affected but the interstate, from the airport to Woodrow Wilson (on to West Street) will be. Streets immediately surrounding the stadium will be blocked. This, he says, will not affect the streets of the historic Fondren business district. “If you have a business, you should have a captive audience to sell to Saturday as cars will be all over the neighborhood.”

One place they will NOT be allowed to park is Woodrow Wilson. McGowan says, “Vehicles will be towed if left parked along this route.”

It is believed the First Lady will speak shortly after 3pm and leave the stadium around 4pm. Street closures from earlier in the day will once again occur. Expect heavy traffic congestion most of Saturday. “In this area, no one should expect to get anywhere in any hurry on Saturday, period,” he noted.

A University of Mississippi Medical spokesman says hospital employees are advised to anticipate delays. “We don’t know how bad (delays) will be but we’re planning as best as we can. We are opening extra lots on campus to allow to them to park here instead of at the stadium.”

They also advise calling 911 in an emergency. “Persons experiencing a condition such as a heart attack, a severe laceration or other potentially life-threatening condition or obstetrical emergency on Saturday should not attempt to reach any of the three hospital emergency departments in a private vehicle if at all possible.”*

April 22, 2016

Another Former Wrestler is Dead

By bryanflynn

News of music star Prince’s death rocked the world yesterday, and rightfully so, as an icon of the industry is now gone. Earlier in the day, however, reports were already coming in that former WWE star Chyna, whose real name was Joan Marie Laurer, had died.

Sadly, her death is too often a side of pro wrestling and her sudden exit from the business is still a major part of speculation between fans. Laurer’s went from the top of the wrestling world to working in adult films to posting rambling YouTube videos about vitamins and being a vegan.

At one time, Laurer was one of the biggest stars in the WWE. Then known as the WWF before a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund forced the name change. She rose to fame during the “Monday Night Wars” between the WWE and now defunct WCW.

Laurer, from Rochester, N.Y., began her professional wrestling career after working as a model and bodybuilder. She started, as most wrestlers do, on the independent circuit before meeting wrestlers Paul Levesque, better known as Triple H, and Shawn Hickenbottom, better known as Shawn Michaels.

Both Levesque and Hickenbottom were members of a group of wrestlers known backstage as “The Kliq” with Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Sean Waltman.

Laurer’s trainer, “Killer Kowalski,” also introduced her to the son of WWE owner Vince McMahon. She chose to join the WWE over WCW and, according to Laurer, a chance to join the NWO, whose members included Nash and Hall.

When she joined the WWE, she was paired with Triple H and Michaels when the duo started their stable called D-generation X, but she mainly played the role of Triple H’s bodyguard. Laurer was also billed as the “Ninth Wonder of the World” because Andre the Giant was billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” She stayed with DX after Michaels left the company due to back problems.

During her time with DX, she and Triple H began to have a romantic relationship in their real lives outside the ring. This relationship would later be a factor in her decision to leave the company.

Laurer broke several barriers for women in professional wrestling. She often fought against male wrestlers, and she also scored victories over the likes of Chris Jericho, Triple H, Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle, all of whom went on to become world champions.

She became the first woman to compete in the “King of the Ring” Tournament and the “Royal Rumble.” She is also the only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship. Laurer and Triple H split on-screen in 1999, and a year later, the couple separated in real life, with Laurer claiming that he had cheated on her with Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, before the two officially broke things off.

Triple H went on to later marry Stephanie and has since become an executive in the WWE. Laurer left the WWE in 2001, though both ...

April 22, 2016

Drafting a Quarterback is Crapshoot: Part Two

By bryanflynn

The first part of this story looked at NFL teams drafting quarterbacks from 1998 to 2007. This second one will look at quarterbacks drafted from 2008 to 2015 and some interesting numbers behind these draft picks.

Two quarterbacks were picked in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Matt Ryan, who the Atlanta Falcons selected first overall, is currently in the midst of a solid career. But he hasn’t had postseason success, which downgrades him, in my eyes.

The Baltimore Ravens picked quarterback Joe Flacco in the first round in 2008. He has a Super Bowl win but was able to overcome early struggles as a young player thanks to a dominant defense.

There is no question that Ryan and Flacco are franchise quarterbacks. The other 11 of the 13 quarterbacks drafted in 2008 didn’t amount to much. Chad Henne got some run in Miami, but he wasn’t the answer. Green Bay took Matt Flynn—no relation—in the seventh round, and he became the king at cashing in for performances in meaningless late-season games. Flynn signed big contracts but could never become “the man” when he left the Packers.

Three quarterbacks were drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft. All three have had slightly different careers.

Matthew Stafford, who the Detroit Lions drafted first overall, is a solid starter. He has some gunslinger in him, and the Lions haven’t been able to put things together around him enough to succeed at a high level—but he is a franchise quarterback.

Mark Sanchez, who the New York Jets drafted fifth overall, was supposed to be the answer for the club’s quarterback woes. Instead, Sanchez is known for his butt fumble and moving from New York to the Philadelphia Eagles to the Denver Broncos, where he currently is.

Sanchez had early success behind a great Jets defense but more recently has proved to be stopgap for teams looking for a franchise quarterback or a backup. He could have had success in 2016 with that dominant Denver defense.

Tampa Bay drafted Josh Freeman with the 17th overall pick, and it looked like he was going to become a longtime starter in the league. He had two solid seasons in his first four years, but the wheels came off at the start of the 2013 season, when he couldn’t complete a pass. Tampa Bay released him, and he signed with Minnesota.

Things didn’t go any better for Freeman in Minnesota and he was out of the league except for a guest spot in one game in 2015 for the quarterback injury that plagued Indianapolis Colts.

Eleven total quarterbacks were selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, and the rest had limited success. The Colts selected Curtis Painter in the seventh round, and he sat behind Peyton Manning until his neck injury forced him to miss the 2011 season. The Colts turned to Painter and went 2-14 in a disastrous season.

Sam Bradford was ...

April 22, 2016

Belinda Carlisle Will Perform in Mississippi, Despite HB1523

By adreher

Solo artist Belinda Carlisle, the former lead vocalist of the Go-Go's, has decided to go ahead with her Mississippi concert as scheduled, despite having strong objections to House Bill 1523.

On Tuesday, the singer posted an open letter to Gov. Phil Bryant on her Facebook page and GLAAD's website, saying that while she originally planned to cancel her shows in Mississippi, after speaking with local LGBTQ groups, she changed her mind. Carlisle contrasted her pop song "Heaven is a Place on Earth" to the "hell on earth" that House Bill 1523 creates for LGBT Mississippians.

"As the very proud mother of a gay child I can't imagine anything less Christian than using the law as a weapon against others," Carlisle wrote.

Carlisle is scheduled to perform on Saturday night in Biloxi and is holding a candlelight vigil after her concert.

Carlisle's letter is reproduced verbatim below:

Governor Bryant,

I am scheduled to perform in your great state this Saturday, however given the very recent anti-LGBTQ attacks that your administration has leveled against some of your own citizens I very nearly cancelled my appearance. After discussion with various LGBTQ groups, however, I've decided to go forward with the show in order to say a few things to those who live in the Magnolia State -- and I want to start off by addressing you directly.

As the very proud mother of a gay child I can't imagine anything less Christian than using the law as a weapon against others. Because of my career as a performer and the privilege that has brought to our family, my son will be all right, but the pain you're causing LGBTQ Mississippians is devastating, especially the transgender folks and LGBTQ people of color who will be most directly impacted by these attacks. Brave organizers like Kaylee -- a black transgender Mississippian -- and Brandiilyne -- a lesbian pastor in Mississippi -- are just two of the people who will be directly impacted by hateful bills like these. Their bravery in organizing against these attacks is stunning.

Nearly 30 years ago, I released a song titled "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." I was proud of the message of that song then and I continue to be proud of it today. Unfortunately, Governor Bryant, you and those around you are making life hell on earth for many Mississippians.

So I'll go forward with my show on Saturday and I'll use it as an opportunity to speak the truth about the bravery of people like Kaylee and Brandiilyne and so many others across your state who are resilient and loving and brave. Finally, it is my call, as a mother, that you bring a little bit of heaven to Mississippi by repealing HB1523.

Belinda Carlisle

April 22, 2016

JPS Adopts LGBT-Inclusive Employment Policy

By Todd Stauffer

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement praising the Jackson Public School District for voting unanimously to extend workplace protections to gay, lesbian and transgender employees.

April 21, 2016

Music Icon Prince Has Died

By micah_smith

After reports of the death of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Prince began circulating earlier today, national news media sources swarmed to find the truth if there was any truth to the rumor. Sadly, the artist's publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, has now confirmed to multiple sources, including CNN, that Prince had been found dead at his estate and studios in Chanhassen, Minn. He was 57 years old.

This news comes only a week after the music icon's plane made an emergency landing following a show in Atlanta. While many fans and news sites have speculated that his death resulted from a prolonged flu, police are currently investigating to confirm the cause.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis in June 1958, the musician is known for his sexual lyrics and stage presence, as well as his blend of funk, rock, soul and R&B music elements. Over the years, he has won seven Grammy Awards for his music, including 1985's Album of the Year for "Purple Rain," which he had released the year prior in conjunction with a film of the same name. That album also won Prince an Academy Award for the best original song score in 1985. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

While his final studio albums, 2015's "HITnRUN Phases One and Two," were not the chart-topping successes of his younger years, they did receive mostly positive reviews across the board.

Prince also has a more direct—and more curious—connection to the city of Jackson. Last August, a viewer asked WAPT to look into a mugshot of Prince that had been making the rounds on the Internet, and anchor Ryan Houston obliged.

The mugshot was, in fact, real, Houston reported, and came from the musician's arrest after a show at the Mississippi Coliseum in March 1980, when Prince had been opening for Rick James. While boarding a plane departing from Jackson, keyboardist Matthew "Dr. Fink" Fink, who played in Prince's band, The Revolution, told the late legend that he had seen a megaphone in the overhead compartment.

Prince allegedly suggested that he put it in his carry-on bag, and a woman aboard the plane alerted authorities, who then detained both Fink and Prince for questioning. Police chose not to file charges.

April 20, 2016

Southern Dem Heads, Including Mississippi's, to Bernie Sanders: Stop Mischaracterizing Southern Voters

By Donna Ladd

Today, several southern Democratic Party heads, including Rickey Cole of Mississippi, signed a letter asking Bernie Sanders to stop characterizing southern voters as people who "distort reality":

The letter, posted on Politico, started in part:

We commend you on running a spirited campaign that has energized and mobilized a new generation of voters, but we are concerned about the way you and your campaign have characterized the South.

As you may recall in 2006, the Democratic National Committee chaired by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean took two historic steps towards diversity and inclusion. First, the DNC modified its Presidential Primary process and added South Carolina and Nevada (states with sizable minority populations) to join the historic early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Governor Dean stated at the time that he “strongly believed in the importance of broadening participation in the nomination process to better reflect the rich racial, regional and economic diversity of the Democratic Party.” Second, Governor Dean initiated a 50-state strategy to strengthen the Democratic Party and amplify Democratic voices in all states and not just states traditionally dominated by Democrats.

The greatest asset we have as a party is our diversity—a diversity of cultures, religions, ethnicities, experiences, and backgrounds.

Yet over the course of this Democratic primary, you and your surrogates have sought to minimize Secretary Hillary Clinton’s victories throughout the South as a symptom of a region that, as you put it, “distorts reality.” You argue that the South is “the most conservative part” of America; implying states that traditionally vote Republican in a general election are not worth contesting in a Democratic Primary.


Southern Democrats already have to deal with Republicans refusing to expand Medicaid, deteriorating infrastructure, and the lack of adequate funding for our public schools. We need our national Democratic leaders to invest in our races and causes—to amplify our voices, not diminish them. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has spent her entire career trying to help people all across the South. She saw a region full of families and children of every color, and instead of diminishing them, she worked to build them up. She is committed to a long-term strategy of rebuilding our state Democratic parties, to assist candidates up and down the ballot, and to serve as a voice for the voiceless. She has not dismissed the importance of states that you have won, because she realizes s that to be President of the United States you have to be a champion for all of the states. To be leader of the Party, you have to be with Democrats in all states as well. That includes the ones you won and yes, even the ones you lose.

April 20, 2016

Drafting a Quarterback is Crapshoot: Part One

By bryanflynn

If you are running a mock draft of the 2016 NFL Draft, it might be time to just tear up any guesses at this point with the Philadelphia Eagles trading up to the second spot. The Eagles got the Cleveland Browns second pick in the second blockbuster trade before the draft.

The common theory is that both the St. Louis Rams, who have the first pick, and Philadelphia will draft a quarterback.

Two types of NFL teams exist: those who have a franchise quarterback and those who don’t have one. Quarterback is the most discussed and visible position on every NFL roster. Essentially, it is the face of the franchise.

When a team picks the spot correctly it can mean 10 to 15 years of success. When teams muck it up, it seems like it takes forever to fix that mistake.

Just how hard is it to pick a long-term starting quarterback? Let’s take a look back at the draft from 1998 to last year to see.

Every football fan old enough probably remembers the 1998 NFL Draft. The question before it happened was who should be the first pick: Peyton Manning out of Tennessee or Ryan Leaf out of Washington state?

The Indianapolis Colts picked Manning with the first pick of the draft, and he turned out to be a Hall of Fame quarterback now that his career is over. Leaf was selected No. 2, and he is now considered one of the biggest busts in NFL Draft history.

Eight quarterbacks were picked in 1998, and most ended up with short careers. Only Charlie Batch, Brian Griese and Matt Hasselbeck had some sort of success in the league.

The 1999 quarterback draft class produced the top three picks, though two didn’t pan out. Tim Couch, who the Cleveland Browns drafted first overall, did achieve a lot of success in the league.

He was the Browns' first pick upon their return as a franchise, and he didn’t have much help on a team starting over. The third pick of the draft was the Cincinnati Bengals choosing Akili Smith, who was pretty much a bust.

The Philadelphia Eagles used the second pick in the draft to select Donovan McNabb who was the most successful quarterback in the 1999 class. The Eagles hope the No. 2 pick is just as good to them this year.

Other notable picks in that class were Aaron Brooks, who had some success in New Orleans, Daunte Culpepper, who stuck around the league for awhile, Cade McNown and Shaun King.

Brock Huard from this class might be better known for his work with ESPN.

In the 2000 draft class, 12 quarterbacks were picked, but the must-known person was taken in the sixth round out of the University of Michigan. You might have heard of him: Tom Brady.

Yep, the guy picked in the sixth round was more successful than the six quarterbacks picked ahead ...

April 20, 2016

Governor To Cut $25 Million from Agency Budgets

By adreher

Most state agencies will have to take a $25 million budget cut spread across the board due to low revenue, a letter from Gov. Phil Bryant states.

The budget cut will mean a .43% cut to most state agencies' budgets except Vocation and Technical Education, Student Financial Aid, Schools for the Blind and Deaf, Veterans Affairs and Military will be excluded as well as "agencies excluded due to court orders or statutory exemptions."

The governor is also taking $10 million from the state's rainy day fund to stabilize the fiscal-year 2016 budget. In his letter to Kevin Upchurch at the Department of Finance, Gov. Bryant says he is hopeful that $35 million is "will be sufficient and that no further action will be necessary in FY 2016."

Revenue collections through March have been $122 million below the revenue estimates used when the FY2016 budget was adopted, the letter states.

April 19, 2016

JSU's Rene Colon named SWAC Pitcher of the Week

By bryanflynn

The SWAC named its Player of the Week awards, and Jackson State University pitcher Rene Colon was named Pitcher of the Week for the conference. Colon earned the award for his work Sunday, April 17, against JSU rival Alcorn State University.

In the Tigers' 5-1 win over the Braves, Colon pitched a masterful complete game in which he struck out six Braves, gave up one run, one walk and scattered eight hits. The complete game is the first for Colon this season.

JSU jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning in which the Tigers scored on three hits but left two on base. Jackson State’s early lead was all Colon needed, but he got an insurance run in the sixth inning for the 5-0 lead.

Alcorn State was finally able to break through against Colon in the seventh inning with a run. Colon closed the door on the Braves in the eighth and ninth innings by allowing just one hit over the final two innings.

Colon came to Jackson State in 2014 after graduating from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. In his final season at EEC, Colon made 13 appearances with 12 starts and won four games but lost eight as he averaged 4.46 strikeouts per game and a 6.04 ERA. The senior was also named Second Team All-Academic while at ECC.

The 6-foot, 2-inch, 170-pound pitcher from Florida, Puerto Rico made 14 appearances with 10 starts in the 2015 season. He won five games and lost two as he struck out 75 and 22 walks with a 6.28 ERA.

This season, Colon has made 11 appearances with six starts and a 5-3 record. He has 38 strikeouts, 19 walks and a 5.24 ERA over 46.1 innings worth of work.

Colon is the nephew of Tampa Bay Rays third baseman coach Charlie Montoyo.

Jackson State is 21-17 overall this season and 8-8 in SWAC. The Tigers currently sit in second place in SWAC East division behind Alabama State University and are tied with Alcorn State.

April 18, 2016

MAEP Funds Same As Last Year, House Ed Committee Chairman Says

By sierramannie

When Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford told him that classroom supply funds at $12 million were $24 million less than they should be as mandated by Mississippi Code, House Education Committee Chairman Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon, told him he wouldn’t “stand there and be attacked.”

“I don’t care about the formula,” he said. “I care about how much we had to appropriate.”

With a vote of 119-2, the House adopted the conference report for HB 1643, which outlines the budget for the Mississippi Department of Education. Though the general education fund falls $398,000 below what it was last year, Moore said, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program or MAEP formula is funded at exactly the same figure it was last year: $2,311,438,000 “and some change.”

Moore also says that the Mississippi School for the Blind and the Mississippi School for the Deaf would operate at a little less than $300,000 than they had last year, but that classroom supply funds and reading coaches funds would not be cut.

Read the legislation and the conference reports here.

April 18, 2016

College Sports Revenue

By bryanflynn

Texas A&M University sits atop the college-sports world in total revenue in a recent report from USA Today. The Aggies earned more than $192.6 million in 2015—quite a leap from their 2014 revenue of about $119.5 million.

A large portion of the 2015 revenue came from $92 million in contributions, with ticket sales adding more than $45.8 million, rights and licensing adding about $47 million, and other revenue adding about $7.7 million. The Aggies added zero in student fees to their total.

The University of Mississippi was the top-earning school in the state last year, with about $87.6 million in total revenue, 34th place on the list of schools. The athletic department transferred nearly $2 million dollars back to the university, which is viewed as a revenue loss. In 2014, UM collected nearly $76 million in total revenue.

In 2015, UM earned more than $39 million in rights and licensing, by far the largest revenue source for the school. The Rebels added more than $22 million in contributions and more $19 million in ticket sales. UM also earned revenue in student fees and from the school before giving some money back.

Mississippi State University comes in 45th on the list with only slightly more than $75 million in total revenue, up from the more than $62 million in 2014. MSU collected the most revenue from rights and licensing at about $40 million. MSU gave $1.73 million back to the school.

The Bulldogs collected nearly $17 million in contributions and more $14 million in ticket sales. MSU also collected student fee for athletic revenue.

There is a big drop off from the state’s two SEC schools down to the University of Southern Mississippi, the next school from our state on the list. The Golden Eagles earned nearly $24 million in total revenue, placing 118th on the list.

Student fees fed the USM athletic department to the tune of about $6 million. Rights and licensing came in just below $6 million, contributions barely exceeded $4 million, and ticket sales were only about $2 million. The school gave the athletic department nearly $3 million in revenue, and other sources gave USM nearly $3 million. USM athletic department didn’t give any money back to the school.

The Golden Eagles collected less than $500,000 more in total revenue than they did in 2014.

Jackson State University comes in 100 spots behind Southern Miss at 218th place, with about $8 million in total revenue. The Tigers’ main source of revenue was student fees at about $3 million.

JSU earned nearly $3 million from public funds, about $1 million from ticket sales, about $500,000 in rights and licensing, and just about $800,000 from other sources.

One interesting note on JSU: The athletic department claimed zero dollars on contributions. JSU made just above $7 million in total revenue in 2014.

Alcorn State University came in 222nd place with about $7 million in total revenue. The Braves’ ...