1 week ago

What to watch: Auburn vs Tennessee edition

The Auburn Tigers come off their extended break to face the Tennessee Volunteers today. Auburn’s last game was their best performance of the season, a 48-11 drubbing of LSU. However, that contest was 21 days ago since the Tigers had a scheduled bye week and then an unexpected missed game against Mississippi State because of COVID-19 concerns.

The Volunteers have not been away from action as long as Auburn, but they too had a last week’s matchup postponed due to COVID-19. That could be a good thing for the Vols because it gave them extra time to prepare for Auburn following a rough loss to Arkansas in their most recent game.

Take a look at three key factors that will play a big role in determining who comes away victorious in today’s matchup between Auburn and Tennessee in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

COVID-19 absences
Neither coaching staff has provided a list of players that will be held out of today’s game because of positive COVID-19 tests. However, it is safe to assume that both teams will be missing athletes today. It is a certainty that Auburn will have players unavailable today because of the 14-day waiting period after a positive COVID-19 test.

There is no point in speculating exactly who may or may not be held out today, but it is obvious that if either team has key players unavailable for the game, then that will be a challenge for the team to overcome. Once players take the field for warm-ups this afternoon, everyone will have a clearer picture of availabilities and absences.

Auburn’s long layoff
People often debate whether or not momentum is a real thing in sports. Sometimes people are referencing a specific stretch of an individual game, other times the context is that of a series of games in a season. As analytics have moved more front and center of sports discussion and decision making, the idea of a team creating and carrying momentum has lessened.

However, there is no doubt that confidence and success work together in a self-fulfilling cycle where some of one tends to lead to more of the other. The reason this is important today is that Auburn put together its best game of the year against LSU three weeks ago, and has not had a chance to build on it since then.

The Tigers will likely need to shake off a little bit of rust in order to recapture the rhythm and confidence that was found in the big win the last time Auburn took the field. If Auburn is unable to get off to a quick start or settle into the flow of the game early, that could provide Tennessee a chance to gain a foothold in a contest that they are double-digit underdogs.

Tennessee’s quarterback situation
The last time Tennessee made the trip to Auburn, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano led the Vols to a 30-24 victory in Jordan-Hare Stadium. That day, Guarantano passed for 328 yards and two touchdowns and proved to be the difference in the game. However, this year in Guarantano’s senior season, things have not gone very smoothly. The Volunteers enter the contest on a four-game losing streak, and three different quarterbacks got an opportunity to play in the most recent loss to Arkansas.

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt declined to give much insight into the quarterback situation earlier in the week other than to say that multiple guys have gotten reps at practice and have looked good doing so. Regardless of whether Guarantano, freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey, sophomore quarterback JT Shrout or anyone else takes snaps for the Vols today, Tennessee must get good production from that critical position to have a chance to win.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

6 seconds ago

DOJ sues housing authority in small Alabama town for racial discrimination

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit in the Northern District of Alabama on Tuesday alleging that the Housing Authority of Ashland, Alabama engaged in racially discriminatory practices.

The Justice Department alleges the Housing Authority, along with Southern Development Company which owned the facilities in question, violated the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The named parties allegedly “denied African-American applicants the opportunity to live in overwhelmingly White housing complexes, while steering White applicants away from properties whose residents were predominantly African-American,” according to a release on Tuesday. The practices were in place since at least 2012, according to the DOJ.

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“Individuals and families should not have their rights affected by their race or national origin,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Prim F. Escalona in a release.

“Our office is committed to defending the civil rights of everyone,” she added.

Ashland is the county seat of Clay County and has a population of around 2,000 people. It is about a one hour drive south of Anniston and a roughly 90-minute drive east of downtown Birmingham.

According to the Department, the suit “seeks damages to compensate victims, civil penalties to the government to vindicate the public interest, and a court order barring future discrimination and requiring action to correct the effects of the defendants’ discrimination.”

Census data from 2010 showed the city’s population was roughly 75% white and 25% black.

The Housing Authority received financial subsidies from the federal government to make affordable housing units available to disadvantaged families.

“Discrimination by those who receive federal taxpayer dollars to provide housing to lower-income applicants is particularly odious because it comes with the support and authority of government. The U.S. Department of Justice will not stand for this kind of unlawful and intolerable discrimination,” stated Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

“The United States has made great strides toward Dr. King’s dream of a nation where we will be judged by content of our character and not by the color of our skin. The dream remains at least partially unfulfilled because we have not completely overcome the scourge of racial bias in housing,” he added.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

12 mins ago

Ivey calls for ‘return to in-person instruction as soon as possible’

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday released a statement encouraging Alabama education leaders — both on the state and local levels — to get students back to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

This comes as many school districts continue with various forms of instruction other than traditional in-person learning; this includes hybrid formats as well as virtual-only instruction.

Additionally, some school districts, such as Birmingham City Schools, have recently announced a cessation of any in-person instruction as COVID-19 numbers rise nationwide and across the Yellowhammer State.

“Due to COVID-19, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for everyone, especially for our parents, teachers and students,” Ivey said to begin her statement. “I’m extremely grateful for the flexibility everyone has shown as they have adapted to virtual instruction.”

“However, virtual and remote instruction are stop-gap measures to prevent our students from regressing academically during the pandemic. These practices cannot — and should not — become a permanent part of instructional delivery system in 2021. As we are learning more about COVID-19, we are seeing more and more clear evidence pointing out that our students are safe in the classroom with strong health protocols in place,” the governor continued.

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Notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci in recent days called on leaders to keep schools open.

“If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not really very big at all,” he advised.

Ivey on Tuesday added, “There are nearly 9,800 fewer students enrolled statewide in this academic year and a five percent reduction in students on the kindergarten level. This will not only result in a critical learning loss for our students today but will also likely lead to an equally negative impact on the readiness of our workforce in years to come. Additionally, it could have an equally important economic loss that affects the critical funding for our classrooms and teacher units.”

“As we begin the holiday season and contemplate a return to a normalcy in 2021, I strongly urge our education leadership on both the state and local levels to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible,” she concluded. “My Administration will work with Dr. Mackey, all of our local superintendents and the Legislature to ensure that our kids are back in the classroom in 2021. Our employers, our families, our communities, Alabama’s taxpayers, and most importantly, our students, deserve nothing less.”

RELATED: State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey: ‘I would not recommend’ statewide school shutdown, virtual learning

Ivey in recent weeks also advocated for keeping Alabama businesses open.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 mins ago

Alabama STEM Council names interim executive director ahead of first meeting

Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and director of AIDT, on Monday announced that Lee Meadows, PhD has been named interim executive director of the recently established Alabama STEM Council as the state moves to advance science, technology, engineering, and math education and continue the work of Alabama’s Roadmap to STEM Success.

According to a release, Meadows in this role will work with the leadership of the Alabama STEM Council to help identify and solve barriers to STEM education and discover innovative solutions to meet the future demand of STEM related occupations in the Yellowhammer State.

With over thirty years of experience in science and education, Meadows’ career path has reportedly taken him from teaching chemistry and physics in high school to training and developing future STEM teachers. Helping educators integrate science and technology into their teaching quickly became a passion for Meadows and developing future STEM teachers turned into his personal mission.

Meadows most recently served as a professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) School of Education and prior to that was the co-director of UABTeach, where he helped nurture and train a new teaching force of highly qualified instructors in STEM subjects.

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Alabama is projected to need more than 850,000 STEM-related occupations by 2026, according to Alabama’s Roadmap to STEM Success.

“We are at a critical stage with STEM education in our state, and the Alabama STEM Council will be the leading authority to ensure we are poised for growth and success for many years to come,” stated Castile. “Having someone like Dr. Meadows who is passionate and dedicated to the growth and preparedness of future STEM leaders will set Alabama up for a successful future.”

Educator shortages and a disparity of STEM education available to all students regardless of location, economic status, gender or race provide obstacles to meeting the future demand for STEM-related careers.

In a statement, Meadows warned that “if we don’t grow our own STEM workforce we won’t have one.” He also noted that it is both his vision and passion to ensure all Alabama students see the value of STEM and have access to and availability of these educational resources.

This announcement comes ahead of the first meeting of the Alabama STEM Council on Wednesday. The meeting is open to the public via online access, which can be found here.

Meadows and the leadership of the Alabama Stem Council will reportedly begin with a priority of communicating to students, parents, teachers and other stakeholders the value of a STEM education and the doors it can open in the workforce.

Recognizing that there is not currently sufficient data in the state on what works and where the gaps in STEM education are, the Alabama Stem Council will also undertake a data tracking initiative to provide quantitative analysis to guide decisions and priorities. Identifying programs in Alabama that are already doing an exemplary job with STEM education that can be modeled and scaled up for the entire state will also be a top priority for the organization.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

43 mins ago

Zeigler: If ALDOT can build an $800M I-20/59-65 interchange in Birmingham with no toll, they can build an I-10 Mobile Bay bridge with no toll

As talk about construction for a new I-10 Mobile Bay bridge heats up, opponents of the infamous 2019 public-private partnership plan developed by the Alabama Department of Transportation are restating their opposition to any proposal that includes tolling.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who led an online campaign against the 2019 plan, is among those still insisting on no tolls.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” in Mobile, Zeigler urged policymakers to look for other funding mechanisms and said if ALDOT could find a way to complete the $800 million upgrades to I-20/59 in downtown Birmingham, it could do so with the I-10 Mobile Bay project, as well.

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“Ever since we were able to block the toll plan, and I might say the very ridiculous toll plan, in August 2019, we knew there was a probability that somebody would come back with another plan for an I-10 bridge over Mobile Bay,” he said. “It’s just inevitable. Since then, actually, one loose group of leaders in Baldwin County came back with a proposal, but it didn’t get very far,  seven or eight months ago. Now we’ve been informed that there are people taking another look at it. Now, if they can put in a new bridge using the existing funds — the gas tax, the increase in the gas tax, the GOMESA money, the leftover BP funds, federal money, infrastructure grants — then let’s see the plan and let’s go forward without a toll.”

“You know, in Birmingham, they just built a new I-59, I-20, I-65 interchange costing about $800 million with no tolls,” Zeigler added. “They can build the I-10 bridge with no tolls, and we’re sticking to that.”

Zeigler acknowledged ALDOT director John Cooper and Gov. Kay Ivey’s handling of the 2019 project had resulted in an erosion of the public’s trust but said he was still open to a proposal, assuming it was a toll-free plan.

“ALDOT and its director, John Cooper, and Governor Ivey lost a lot of credibility on the Gulf Coast with the ridiculous plan,” Zeigler said. “The more we learned about that 2019 toll plan, the worse it got. The more facts we learned, the more we had to block the thing, and we did. I have a loss of trust in ALDOT and John Cooper, and many, many other people do, too. But preliminary work for a new bridge with existing funds can be done without their involvement, and the leadership needs to come locally, not from Montgomery. This idea that Montgomery knows what’s best for the Gulf Coast — that is not a good idea.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

58 mins ago

Delta Dental donates $100,000 to Alabama food banks on Giving Tuesday

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation on Tuesday announced that it is giving a total of $100,000 to two food banks in Alabama.

The announcement comes on this year’s Giving Tuesday, a global campaign that encourages people and organizations to do good and pay it forward. The 2020 version of this annual day takes on increased significance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a release from the foundation noted.

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation partners with local communities to increase access to care, support dental education and fund research that advances the oral health field. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California and its affiliated companies — including Delta Dental Insurance Company, which operates in the Yellowhammer State.

“As a result of the pandemic, food insecurity rates and reliance on food banks are skyrocketing like never before,” stated Kenzie Ferguson, vice president for foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California and its affiliates. “Fighting food insecurity is not only the right thing to do for our communities during these trying times, but it also aligns with our mission to promote oral health.”

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The foundation’s release explained that dental caries, or the disease that causes tooth decay, has been linked to food insecurity – a disruption in food intake or eating patterns due to a lack of resources – in numerous studies.

Alabama food banks receiving grants are as follows:

Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham – $75,000
Montgomery Area Food Bank – $25,000

Overall foundation support in 2020 totals nearly $15 million nationwide, including nearly $350,000 to nonprofits in Alabama.

RELATED: Alabama Power employees raise money to help people in need

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn