Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Khayat to Retire

“Having reached the ripe old age of 70-plus, it is time for me to retire,” Khayat said in a news release. “I do so with a heart filled with gratitude to the thousands of people who support our university. I leave with an abiding affection for the people and the school, and with confidence that this university will continue to provide the quality programs so vital to our state and region.”

University employees said this morning that Khayat has “a full schedule today” and would not be taking interviews from the media.

The former pro-football player and law school professor has led Ole Miss since summer 1995.

“Robert Khayat is one of the most effective university leaders I have ever known,” said interim Commissioner of Higher Education Aubrey Lucas. “He has made a transforming difference at his alma mater. We wish him much happiness in his well deserved retirement.”

During his formal announcement meeting this morning, Khayat only touched on his successor by saying he trusts the state College Board to make the right decision for the university.

The board is expected to accept Khayat’s retirement request and discuss the institutional transition during a meeting next week.

“Dr. Khayat has served the University of Mississippi and the state of Mississippi with distinction,” said College Board president Amy Whitten, an Ole Miss alumnae. “His accomplishments during his tenure have been exceptional, and he will be truly missed.”

Khayat has led the school though rapid growth and several changes through the years.

Since 1995, Ole Miss’ enrollment has swelled from 12,254 students to 17,601. The growth included a more than 75 percent surge in minority enrollment, and a 740 percent increase in financial aid dollars.

The Honors College has grown from 229 students in 1995 to more than 750 today, and Ole Miss has more than double the number of National Merit Finalists enrolled today as it did in 1995.

“It’s been amazing working with (Khayat) for the past decade,” his speech writer Linda Peal said. “The university has greatly changed. ... It is a sad day for me.”

This year alone, Khayat has seen his alma mater through a U.S. presidential debate and a Cotton Bowl win, in addition to its 25th Rhodes Scholar and first black Alumni Association president.

“This was a big year (for Ole Miss),” said Andy Mullins, executive assistant to the chancellor.

Walker Agnew, a senior from Houston and the only student who attended the formal announcement this morning, said Khayat stressed how the vice chancellors, faculty and students are the ones who will carry on his goals for Ole Miss.

“Chancellor Khayat got a little emotional when he first started talking,” Agnew said. “He discussed many of his accomplishments, then said he and his wife talked and the time felt right.”

Senate Universities and Colleges committee chair Doug Davis, R-Hernando, said he appreciated Khayat’s dedication to making the college experience the best for Ole Miss students.

“His mission was always to make the university better than when he found it, and he has certainly done that,” Davis said. “Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi will certainly miss his leadership. I appreciate his friendship and wish him only the best.”

Monday, January 5, 2009

Les Miles lining up stellar 2009 Recruiting Class

Les Miles and the LSU Football program is tearing it up on the recruiting trail, having already received verbal commitments from these players:
1. Michael Ford, RB Leesville, LA
2. Josh Downs, DT Bastrop, LA
3. Michael Brockers, DE Houston, TX
4. Janzen Jackson, CB Lake Charles, LA
5. Drayton Calhoun, ATH, Tucker, GA
6. Russell Shepard, QB, Houston, TX
7. Chris Garrett, QB, Tupelo, MS
8. Dexter Pratt, RB, Navasota, TX
9. Kevin Minter, LB, Suwanee, GA
10. Chris Faulk, OT, Slidell, LA
11. Carneal Ainsworth, OG, Baton Rouge, LA
12. Stavion Lowe, OT, Brownwood, Texas
13. Josh Williford, OT, Dothan, AL
14. Chris Davenport, DT, Mansfield, LA
15. Derek Helton, P, Fort Scott, KS
16. Kenny Bell, WR, Rayville, LA
17. Akiem Hicks, DT, Sacramento, CA (JUCO)
18. Morris Claiborne, DB, Shreveport, LA
19. Dominque Allen, FB, Paris, TN
20. Lamin Barrow, LB, Marrero, LA
21. Craig Loston, S, Aldine, Texas

Catcher Remains Sox's biggest Void

For any true baseball fan, the dawn of the New Year is more than just a time to make resolutions. More than anything, it's the time that the countdown officially starts until pitchers and catchers report under the warm sun of Spring Training.
While Red Sox followers gear up for that date -- which is Feb. 12, by the way -- Boston general manager Theo Epstein is still working hard at putting the finishing touches on the 2009 roster.

Mark Teixeira won't be climbing on board after all, but that means that widely respected third baseman Mike Lowell won't have to look over his shoulder worrying about a trade. Instead, Lowell can continue to focus exclusively on rehabbing his right hip with an eye toward being in the lineup on Opening Day.

While the Yankees have invested more than $400 million on Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, this won't be a winter of big spending for the Red Sox.

Epstein recently made a couple of modest investments in starting pitcher Brad Penny ($5 million guaranteed) and catcher Josh Bard ($1.7 million). And earlier in the winter, a big piece of the future was secured, with American League Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia signing at six years for $40.5 million.

As for unfinished business, the catching situation remains of utmost importance. Sure, Bard is a good start, with his switch-hitting bat and solid work ethic. But he doesn't figure to be the primary man behind the plate.

Things continue to be strangely silent when it comes to Jason Varitek, who is a free agent after being a member of the Red Sox since July 31, 1997.

It's hard to picture Varitek without the Red Sox, and vice versa, but can Epstein and agent Scott Boras reach common ground?

If not Varitek, then who?

The Red Sox could still go out and get a catcher-of-the-future type, someone who would conceivably work in tandem with Bard.

Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks, and the Texas duo of Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have been the names most frequently bandied about.

But the Red Sox might have to give up a pitching prospect, such as Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden, to make such a deal a reality, and Epstein has thus far been reluctant to do so.

If all else fails, Dusty Brown and/or George Kottaras -- who filled out a solid platoon for Triple-A Pawtucket last year -- could be given a shot.

Beyond that, Boston's most obvious need is a fourth outfielder. Rocco Baldelli, given his New England roots, right-handed bat and talented skill-set, remains an intriguing possibility. Baldelli recently got a positive report on his health, which indicated the excessive fatigue he experienced in 2008 can be treated.

Beyond those issues, the Red Sox can take heart in having one of the most talented rosters in the game heading into 2009, despite the lack of blockbuster moves in the Hot Stove season.

Between now and Spring Training, the Red Sox will contemplate how best to utilize Justin Masterson, with a return to the bullpen now appearing to be the logical choice. Boston, by the way, could have a dominant bullpen in 2009, with Masterson, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima setting up Jonathan Papelbon.

There is also the shortstop dilemma. Did Jed Lowrie establish himself as a starter or will Julio Lugo- - remember him? -- be given the chance to win his old job back?

And once workouts begin in Fort Myers, Fla., the Red Sox can see for themselves if David Ortiz, Josh Beckett and Lowell have sufficiently recovered from the injuries that limited them late in 2008.