Marvin Werkley, of Mobile, Ala., looks over the wager sheets on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, at the IP Casino Resort & Spa in Biloxi, before making a bet. More Mississippi casinos, including Biloxi’s Beau Rivage, are opening sports books.

Notes, quotes and opinion or two, while just now realizing the Mississippi college football season kicks off in 24 days…

Rick Cleveland

Speaking of which: This column recently visited Biloxi’s Beau Rivage and the new sports gambling operation, where you can bet on just about anything that has a ball – and some sports, such as NASCAR, that don’t. And did you know you can bet an over/under proposition on how many games Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss will win? Well, you can. The Ole Miss number is 6, USM 6 ½, and Mississippi State 8.

Call me a homer, but I like the “over” on all those.

You can also bet the games of the opening weekend. The opening line on Ole Miss-Texas Tech has Tech a 1.5-point favorite. There’s no betting line on either State’s opener with Stephen F. Austin or USM’s with Jackson State. Clearly, State and USM would be huge favorites. Alabama is a whopping 25.5-pick over Louisville. Auburn is favored by a field goal over Washington and Miami is a 3-point pick over LSU.


Ole Miss basketball is 2-0 on its Canadian exhibition swing. Now comes the hard part. Wednesday night, the Rebels take on Carleton University, which in Canada is like taking on Duke or Kansas. The Carleton Ravens can ever more play hoops. They were 5-1 against American teams last season, including victories over Alabama and Providence. They were 23-0 against Canadian competition. They played their first American team of this season Monday night , trouncing proud Cincinnati 86-67.

Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis and his Rebels will have their hands full with Carleton University.

When this Canadian tour was first announced last spring, I texted new Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis, Jr. about the wisdom (or lack of same) of scheduling Carleton. Davis shot back: “That might be the first time Rebel Nation says: Can this guy really coach?”

All kidding aside, the game is good for Ole Miss for three reasons: One, it’s a good measuring stick for where the Rebels are and what they need to do to get better; two, it’s no disgrace – at all – to lose against those guys; and, three, it doesn’t count against your record.

Carleton has won 13 of the the last 15 Canadian national university championships. Duke, currently on a similar tour of Canada, reportedly chose to skip playing Carleton.


Bob “Sarge” Collins

Was so sorry to learn of the death of Bob Collins, the long-time basketball official who made the Mississippi Gulf Coast his adopted home. “Sarge,” we called him, growing up in Hattiesburg, where he officiated games at both Southern Miss and William Carey. He was a character, a referee who somehow endeared himself to coaches, fans and sports media – no matter what he called.

He was a Massachusetts native and a former professional baseball player, who settled on the Gulf Coast after a stint in the Air Force at Keesler AFB. He called games all over the South in the SEC, Metro and smaller conferences and then worked as an evaluator of officials for Conference USA in later years.

He was a pistol, as this story involving The Pistol will indicate. Once, he was officiating an LSU game at Baton Rouge when Pistol Pete Maravich was the superstar and Pete’s father, Press Maravich, was his coach. At one point, Press called Sarge over to the sidelines and told him that the opposition was beating up on Pete and that Sarge needed to give him some protection.

Sarge told Press Maravich he would keep an eye on it and then deadpanned, “Say, Coach, what number is Pete?”

He was a beauty. And he was also a generous man who worked for years as the director of Red Cross in south Mississippi. He was 87, and he will be missed.


As if it needed one, Mississippi State women’s basketball got another big boost recently. Texas A&M standout Anriel Howard, the school’s all-time leading rebounder, has transferred to State and can play immediately. She can do so because she already has graduated. She averaged 11.9 points and 12 rebounds a game last season.

Howard is a gazelle of an athlete and can jump seemingly into the rafters. Against State, in the SEC Tournament at Nashville often going against All American Teaira McCowan, she grabbed 17 rebounds. Now, she’ll be teaming with McCowan, a scary thought for State foes.


One more sports betting note: The New Orleans Saints opened at 18 to 1 odds to win the Super Bowl. That’s already been bet down to 14 to 1. They could do it, you know…

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.