Category: Sports Bites

Bennie’s still silent and his chief of staff is still working

(Note: The commentary below was published on Tuesday, Oct. 31. A day later on Wednesday, Nov. 1, Rep. Thompson told a Gannett reporter in Washington that he fired Avant on Monday, Oct. 30. Gannett owns the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Yet, after Avant’s felony conviction last year, Thompson apparently terminated Avant after the most recent federal indictment. That indictment came on Oct. 11, almost three weeks before the date Thompson said he fired Avant.)

Crime doesn’t pay. (Unless you work for Congressman Thompson)

Last February I commented on some strange, to say the least, circumstances in the office of U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. Thompson’s chief of staff, Lanier Avant, had pled guilty to $150,000 tax evasion. And after serving a month in prison, Avant was completing the rest of his sentence serving weekends in jail. Avant remained in his job with Thompson. Earlier in October, The Washington Post and other media reported Avant has been indicted again, this time for filing false security clearance forms. Avant, in addition to being Thompson’s chief of staff, also served for a time as Democratic staff director for the House Homeland Security Committee. Mind you – the Homeland Security Committee, not the Agriculture Committee or one of the many other less sensitive committees of Congress. If you want to read some bizarre claims Avant made, I suggest you read an article in The Daily Signal, http://dailysignal.com//print/post_id=363860  The Daily Signal reported Lanier lied about donating $50,000 to a religious group and tried to claim tax write-offs for rollerblading, biking, chess, and a bass guitar. At his sentencing, Avant, who made a paltry $170,000 per year salary paid by taxpayers, told the judge he could not afford the rent on his apartment. In 2015 the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation gave Avant an award for “exemplary leadership”. Also, while Avant served as staff director of the committee, some Republican staffers and members were concerned that whenever Avant met with vendors, he always asked them about contracts being awarded to minority contractors. How silly some of us think contracts should be awarded to the contractor making the lowest bid and who is most qualified.

Makes one wonder, does Avant know where the bodies are buried?

The latest charge against Avant carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison. Yet he remains Thompson’s chief of staff. It is not unreasonable to surmise perhaps Avant knows

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Ole Miss defeat by Auburn was not as close as the final score (44-23) indicated

Mississippi State avoids loss to “Open Date”

Not halfway through the 2017 football season, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are at a crossroads. There’s been nothing to brag about for either school. Two weeks ago, Alabama crushed Ole Miss 66-3. Last week the Rebels lost 44-23 to Auburn and the game was not as close as the final score indicated. Auburn led 35-3 at halftime and took its foot off the gas in the second half and played a lot of reserves. The last two games have been even more crushing for State. After demolishing non-conference foes Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech by a combined 106-21, Bulldog fans really got pumped up when MSU whipped LSU 37-7. The balloon burst the next week when Georgia crushed State 31-3 and that game was followed by a thorough whipping by Auburn, 49-10. Last weekend at least State did not lose to “Open Date”. The Rebs and Bulldogs can’t slip up this week. Ole Miss has the tougher foe and is favored by three over Vanderbilt. The odds have State as a three touchdown favorite over BYU. That’s a larger margin of error for MSU, but a loss to the Cougers would certainly be a bigger blow to State than if Ole Miss does not beat Vanderbilt.

Is the mighty SEC three Snow Whites and eleven dwarfs?

Is the mighty SEC not as mighty as usual? I would agree it isn’t. Sure, Alabama is Alabama and apparently Georgia and Auburn are very good football teams. Those three are all ranked in the AP’s top ten. Alabama and Georgia are top 10 in the Coach’s Poll, and Auburn is just out at number 11. Nowhere else in the top 25 is a single SEC team ranked. It’s a hard pill for SEC fans to swallow, but there is no doubt the SEC is down overall this season.

ESPN should have fired Jemele Hill instead of suspending her for two weeks

When I first saw the headline that ESPN anchor Jemele Hill had been suspended for two weeks, my first thought was why it took ESPN so long to suspend her after, on social

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After the millennials, is the wienie generation next?

Yes, the earth is still flat for college administrators and some students

By now, most of us have heard about how the University of California – Berkley spent $600,000 for security when conservative speaker Ben Shapiro spoke to students at the school. Heck, for $600,000 I would think Cal could have hired the 101st Airborne to provide security for Shapiro. Shapiro is a conservative commentator, columnist, author,  radio talk show host and lawyer. He is no right wing crazy or neo-Nazi. He graduated from high school at age 16, graduated from UCLA summa cum laude and was a Phi Beta Kappa member. At age 20 he graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. If it weren’t bad enough for Cal to spend $600,000 on security for Shapiro’s appearance, the officials at Cal provided counselors for students who might be upset about him making a speech on campus. The “wienie generation” is on the heels of the millennials.

After the state flag, what’s next?

As I’ve written previously, if and when our state flag is changed, what’s next? The list is long. Recently the Jackson Public School District decided to consider changing the names of three schools in the city. The schools are named after Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and James Z. George. George was a colonel in the Confederate States Army and later served as a U.S. Senator from Mississippi until his death. Yes, the JPS system is the second largest in the state and is over 95 percent black. There is a very real possibility that the school district could be taken over by the state because of the many failings of Jackson schools. Let’s face it. Jackson Public Schools are rotten. I have often wondered how many

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Race card fails in UAW’s push for union at Nissan

Landslide vote against union at Nissan is a win

for Nissan workers and also for Mississippi

On the Monday after the Saturday when workers at the Nissan plant in Canton overwhelmingly rejected the United Automobile Workers attempt to unionize, The Wall Street Journal called the vote “another humiliation” for the UAW. The editorial noted the UAW spent heavily to win the unionization vote and enlisted supporters such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Chairman Tom Perez and actor Danny Glover. Of course, the UAW was supported by Mississippi’s own congressman Bennie Thompson, the state NAACP and Jackson’s new mayor, Chokwe Lumumba. I had previously been told about 65 percent of the workers at the Nissan plant are black, but the WSJ said more than 80 percent of those who voted were African Americans. Of course, the UAW tried to exploit racial politics before the vote. Socialist Sen. Sanders said the UAW supporters were “connecting workers rights with civil rights.” Fortunately for the Nissan workers and future industrial development in Mississippi, playing the race card did not work for the UAW and its supporters like Bennie Thompson, longtime radical Danny Glover and Mayor Lumumba. The WSJ editorial was right on target when it said “race-baiting fell flat in Canton.” Most workers at the plant make $24-26 per hour. What do you think most of them would be making elsewhere? The WSJ also noted, and I assume the Nissan workers were also aware, a week before the vote a deceased UAW vice president teamed up with an official at Fiat-Chrysler to allegedly steal millions of dollars from a fund that was intended to train auto workers. The wife of the late UAW VP and the Fiat-Chrysler official have been indicted. UAW leaders often live high off the hog compared to the workers they represent. It is no wonder during the past 35 years the UAW’s ranks have shrunk by more than 75 percent. The Center for Union Facts also estimates during the past 10 years big labor unions have used more than $1 billion in member dues to donate to the Democratic Party and other left-wing special-interest groups. While workers at Nissan were voting 2,244 to 1,307 against joining the UAW, Toyota and Mazda announced they will spend $1.6 billion to build another assembly plant in the South. The plant is expected to have 4,000 jobs, a huge prize for whatever southern state is the winner of the competition to build the plant. That competition will be very stiff and Mississippi may be a longshot to win the plant, but one thing is very clear – if Nissan had lost the vote to the UAW, Mississippi would have zero chance to secure the economic development prize.

Correction and apology to Clarion-Ledger columnist Billy Watkins

In the August 2 WeidieReport, I commented that popular radio talk show host Bo Bounds noted a disclosure lapse at the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. In that post I was incorrect when I wrote that veteran Clarion-Ledger columnist Billy Watkins had written several

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Alleged Ole Miss cheaters must be concerned about embarrassment, humiliation or worse

John Doe and others are like Richard Nixon except in this case, the crime (allegations of NCAA recruiting violations) is as bad as the cover-up

The Ole Miss NCAA football violations saga continues. Part of the story almost seems like a soap opera. Apart from the NCAA process, perhaps the most soap-opera like part of the story in how some Ole Miss boosters involved in the alleged cheating are doing everything possible to avoid being publicly exposed. There’s little doubt public exposure would cause embarrassment, humiliation and possibly even worse for some prominent and, in some cases, well known Rebel alumni or boosters. On March 22, the WeidieReport filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with Ole Miss for the names of any alumni or boosters who Ole Miss had disassociated from Rebel athletics because of the NCAA allegations. On May 3, the assistant general counsel at the school furnished me four letters sent to boosters notifying them of the decision to disassociate them from Ole Miss athletic programs. Shortly after that a reliable source informed me Ole Miss athletic officials had made five calls to boosters to inform them they also were being disassociated from Ole Miss athletics. The calls were reportedly made one evening and I was given four of the five names. Apparently, the individuals were not the same ones in the redacted letters. A John Doe filed action to stop the release of the names. The staff at the Mississippi Ethics Commission recommended names be released and apparently Ole Miss was going to comply. Ole Miss backed off giving the names pending the July 14 meeting of the Ethics Commission when the staff decision would be considered. Steve Robertson, Mississippi State beat writer for Scout.com, and blogger James Hendrix, took aggressive FOI action with the Ethics Commission. On July 14 members of the Ethics Commission ruled in favor of releasing the booster names and John Doe promptly filed legal action in Hind County against Ole Miss and the Ethics Commission to prevent them from making public the names of the boosters involved in the NCAA allegations (i.e. Ole Miss football cheating). If

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Do privacy laws protect alleged recruiting cheaters?

Hinds County lawsuit shows at least one, and probably more Rebel boosters are nervous

Without question, some Ole Miss alumni and boosters are nervous about their names being made public in connection with their role in the NCAA allegations of illegal recruiting involving the football program. One booster, “John Doe” filed legal action against the University of Mississippi and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). The suit was filed May 23 in the Hinds County Chancery Court and heard by Judge Denise Owen. “John Doe” sought to enjoin Ole Miss and IHL from publicly divulging his name in connection to allegations made against him regarding his involvement in football recruiting cheating. As the legal action was filed in Hinds County, it was not hard to surmise that “John Doe” is from the Jackson area. On March 22 the WeidieReport filed a Freedom of Information request with the University of Mississippi with a copy to the IHL commissioner. The request was for the names of any alumni/boosters Ole Miss had disassociated from the Rebel athletic programs as the result of the NCAA allegations. After several email exchanges and phone conversations, on May 3 the Assistant General Counsel at Ole Miss sent me a cover letter and copies of four letters that had been sent to alumni/boosters notifying them of the school’s decision to disassociate them from Ole Miss athletic programs. The names of the boosters, (a.k.a alleged cheaters) were redacted. I thought at the time the blacking out of the names in the letters was akin to changing the names to protect the guilty. Steve Robertson, who covers Mississippi State athletics for Scout.com, has been tenacious and like a bulldog, no pun intended, in digging into the NCAA allegations against the Ole Miss football program. When Robertson’s FOI request resulted in him receiving the same redacted booster names, Robertson filed a complaint with the toothless Mississippi Ethics Commission. And I emphasize the word “toothless.” It would have made more sense, but also been more costly, to file action in a chancery court to force Ole Miss to release the names of the

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NCAA Investigation: Ole Miss was defiant, but now …….

Will Ross Bjork and Hugh Freeze survive? Will Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter be strong enough to handle his AD, coach and the mess in Oxford?

Is there anything that stirs more passion in Mississippi than a heated political discussion or campaign? Of course there is and the easy answer is SEC football, in particular the rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. When NCAA allegations were announced against Ole Miss athletics about a year ago, a firestorm of denials, finger-pointing, defiance, charges of persecution by the NCAA, a lot of spin control by Ole Miss and much, much more erupted. The volume increased recently with additional and very serious allegations against Ole Miss football. New Chancellor Jeff Vitter, Athletic Director Ross Bjork and Head Football Coach Hugh Freeze filmed a 20 minute video to discuss the allegations, how Ole Miss would respond and announced a self-imposed bowl ban for 2017 and that the school would forfeit almost $8 million in SEC postseason revenue. While discussing the video with a friend, I made the mistake of calling it a press conference. I was quickly corrected. It was not a press conference and reporters were not invited so no questions by the press took place. The situation at Ole Miss has received widespread national coverage. While the final outcome may not be known for another year, the overwhelming consensus is the Rebels will suffer more severe penalties from the NCAA. It has been argued the NCAA wants to make an example of Ole Miss and that the university’s pre-emptive self-imposed penalties were a self-serving appeasement that won’t satisfy the NCAA. The most interesting speculation is how the investigation will impact Vitter, Bjork

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Dave “Boo” Ferriss, R.I.P.

A great man beyond the baseball diamond

When it was learned that the legendary Boo Ferriss had died, at age 94, on Thanksgiving Day, there was a  huge outpouring of praise and affection. It was very fitting and well deserved. I learned of Boo’s death from a friend who sent me a story, very appropriately written by columnist Rick Cleveland, a close friend of Boo who authored a book about Mississippi’s greatest baseball legend. The last time I saw Boo was at an event at Mississippi State University to honor former congressman Sonny Montgomery. Sonny was near the end of his own life and then MSU president Charles Lee had an event to honor Sonny and commemorate the renovation of MSU’s Montgomery Hall, which was named after Sonny’s grandfather. I was one of five or six speakers who were friends with Sonny and were listed in the event’s program. There was another speaker who was not listed in the program who was able to appear at the last minute. It was Boo. It was a very pleasant surprise and was great to catch up with him. I did not realize until then that Sonny and Boo had entered MSU together as freshmen. Sonny went on to a distinguished public career in the Mississippi Legislature and U.S. Congress. Boo’s career with the Boston Red Sox and as head coach at Delta State University was equally distinguished.

Boo recruited my oldest son for a baseball scholarship to DSU. My son was fortunate to have several Division 1 baseball offers and eventually eliminated Division 2 DSU from his list. However, because Boo was such a wonderful person, the hardest thing my son had to do during his recruitment was to turn down Boo’s offer. Over the years I have known many

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2017 Egg Bowl: Either Rebels or Bulldogs will win, but both seasons are letdowns

The annual battle for the Golden Egg between the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University is set for Saturday afternoon. The fans of one school will rejoice at the end of the day, but the 2017 season for both schools did not meet expectations.

Rebels expected much better season

Ole Miss opened the season with much higher expectations than MSU. Most of the Rebel faithful expected a top 10 national ranking, a legitimate shot at the SEC West title, and a chance to play in Atlanta for the SEC championship. If you’re the SEC champ the next obvious hope is to be one of the four teams selected for the playoffs for the national championship. Instead, after last week’s stunning and decisive loss to Vanderbilt, the Rebels will limp into the final game with their rival at 5-6, 2-5 SEC and must win to finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game. As I have said before, I don’t think any team with a 6-6 record should be playing in a bowl game. In a season when Ole Miss expectations were not met, don’t forget the Rebels at some point will likely be hit with severe penalties by the NCAA and wind up in the NCAA jailhouse. Even with a win, State won’t be bowl eligible with a 5-7 record. State’s streak of six consecutive bowls games is already over. Two of the six-year streak was when State went bowling twice and had 6-6 records that I have already mentioned should not qualify for a bowl. A big loss was when the Rebels’ outstanding quarterback Chad Kelly was injured and his senior season was over. In stepped true freshman Shea Patterson, rated last year as one of the very best high school quarterbacks in the nation. Patterson played sensational in the Rebels’ fourth quarter comeback against Texas A&M. He came back to earth last week in the loss to the lowly Commodores. However, I expect Patterson to bounce back this week against the Bulldogs’ terrible pass defense. State’s pass defense is so bad if Patterson passed for over 500 yards it would not be a shock to me. In fact, State’s entire defense is terrible. But did I fail to mention that the Ole Miss defense is also pretty bad?

Should Dan Mullen be fired?

I thought it was a big deal when State upset Texas A&M. It became less of a big deal after a mediocre Ole Miss team also beat A&M. Next up was Alabama which pounded State 51-3.

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Clarion-Ledger versus Mississippi State officials (plus burning football questions for the Dawgs and Rebels)

No, State did not name a new AD on Oct. 18

Mike Bonner is the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s beat reporter for Mississippi State athletics.  I think Bonner does a darn good job. Of course, partisans of MSU, Ole Miss or any other school never think beat reporters are as positive as they should be towards their team. On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Bonner, citing unnamed sources, reported Bulldog head baseball coach John Cohen would be named athletic director the next week, on Oct. 18, to replace Scott Stricklin who has moved on to be AD for the Florida Gators. MSU officials were very upset with the report and the Clarion-Ledger. President Mark Keenum issued a very strong statement criticizing Bonner and the newspaper. MSU spokesman Sid Salter, a former Clarion-Ledger staff member himself and political columnist, quickly went on the state’s leading sports talk radio show to deny Bonner’s report that a decision had been made. Rick Cleveland is also a former Clarion-Ledger sports editor and columnist. Cleveland, who I think is one of the best, if not the best ever Mississippi sports columnist, promptly wrote about Bonner’s controversial report in his syndicated column. He also wrote that Hugh Kellenberger, the newspaper’s sports editor, backed Bonner.

The bottom line:

Should Bonner have contacted Dr. Keenum for a comment before his news article stating baseball coach John Cohen would be named athletic director on Tuesday, Oct. 18? Absolutely. There is a difference between a request for comment in

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