Most talked about Springfield News-Leader stories

5 great hikes to get you through the holidays — You've got a ton of company coming for Christmas and they're looking for something fun to do. Or maybe you're pretty sure that's a pair of hiking boots beneath the tree. Either way, here are five great places to go that will get you out of the house, let you burn off some of those holiday-cheer calories and whet your appetite to explore.

Solar team starts raising funds for competition — The competition may be months away but work is not letting up. The Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon Team - a partnership between Crowder College and Drury University - is preparing now and raising money. In less than a year, the student-led team with more than 50 undergraduates will be in Irvine, Calif.

Report: MSU among best colleges for online learning — Missouri State University has been named one of the best online colleges for 2015. It was the only higher education institution in Missouri to crack the top 50 on the list put out by the Affordable Colleges Foundation, which looks at affordable high quality programs and the flexibility of distance learning.

Bears' Marshall thankful for health, opportunities — Marcus Marshall has nearly 6,000 Twitter followers, believed to be more than any student-athlete or coach at Missouri State. He begins most every day with a simple tweet. "Thank God for another day & opportunity!" Marshall - his handle is @MarcusM_11 - posts on the popular social media network.

Rollins: Hellfire, freedom and cheap cigarettes — I had been behind the wheel of a Humvee for more than 24 hours during a scorching Iraqi summer. It was the early morning hours of a moonless night. I had struggled, bleary-eyed, to keep my distance from the taillights of the truck ahead as our convoy stretched for miles.
Dec 21, 2014

RT @springfieldNL: A smoker since 2003, @JessRollinsNL points out there is so much more Missouri could be doing to deter smoking.

Eco-friendly parking: $499,000 — What it is: The amount the City of Springfield expects to spend to replace parking lots in the Center City government plaza with pervious pavement and other features meant to reduce stormwater runoff. Phase I of the project, which included replacement of the public lot east of the Busch Municipal Building, wrapped up Dec.
Dec 21, 2014

RT @springfieldNL: Combo of grants & local sales taxes is funding new parking at government plaza. @AmosBridgesNL ht…

Bears no match for Eastern Michigan — Missouri State's basketball season took another step backward on Saturday as the Bears fell 77-65 to Eastern Michigan and its stingy zone defense. After a miserable start, the Bears figured out the zone well enough. It was on their own defensive end where the leaks sprung in front of 5,013 fans at JQH Arena.

Republicans cozy up to McCaskill, other moderate Democrats — Sen. Claire McCaskill says she and other moderate Senate Democrats could be a pivotal force in the next Congress, when the new Republican majority will woo them as swing votes on major legislation. Republicans say she's right. And the courting has already started as the GOP prepares to take control of the Senate in January.
Dec 20, 2014

GOPers look 2 pick off moderate Dems in new Senate. Courtships already are starting @dshesgreen @ngaudiano: #lvrj

Branson Airport announces new service, but deadline nears to get mainline carrier — In an effort to partially fill the void left by Frontier's decision to exit the market, flights under the Branson AirExpress brand to Denver will begin April 16, Branson Airport Executive Director Jeff Bourk told the News-Leader last week.
Dec 20, 2014

Exclusive: Branson Airport announces new service, but deadline nears to get mainline carrier:…

Charter brands keep service to Branson Airport alive — At least a few days a week this year, you could count on flights from Branson Airport to Chicago and Houston, often with fares starting at $99. The name on the side of the plane, however - not to mention the type of aircraft itself - has been a little less consistent.

Details of new MSU coach's deal, perks revealed in offer letter — When Missouri State president Clif Smart said late last month the school intended to increase the salaries of Missouri State football coaches, he meant it. The News-Leader through a Sunshine request received a copy of Dave Steckel's offer letter, which presumably will result in a formal contract.
Dec 19, 2014

I'd take an FCS coaching gig if I'd get a $4,800 grocery allowance like Stec. #ClifBars4ever…

Dec 19, 2014

RT @tgounleyNL: The monetary incentives/benefits for @MissouriState's new football coach:… He gets a $4,800 annual Hy-Vee allowance

Show 2 more tweets from Lyndal Scranton, Thomas Gounley

MSU announces six for 2015 Athletics Hall of Fame — Standout student-athletes and one coach from six different sports whose competitive careers were dotted with postseason honors and NCAA action comprise a six-member induction class for the 2015 Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame. The induction is set for Feb. 15, in conjunction with a basketball doubleheader for the men's and women's teams at JQH Arena.

Missouri State, Convoy of Hope to work together in Haiti — Missouri State University wants to help rebuild Haiti's economy, one farmer at a time. It recently joined forces with Convoy of Hope and the Faculte d'agronomie et de Medecine Veterinaire Universite - a leading university in Haiti - with the goal of working together on agriculture research and education.

Lady Bears lose big lead, game to Arkansas State — Missouri State coach Kellie Harper called it a tale of two halves, but it actually was more like three games within one Friday night at JQH Arena. Unfortunately for Harper, her Lady Bears lost two of those three decisively and wound up on the short end of a 78-62 decision to Arkansas State in front of 2,315 fans.

Bears' game-day guide: What to know about Eastern Michigan — What you need to know as Missouri State plays host to Eastern Michigan on Saturday at JQH Arena: Game time: 2:05 p.m. Doors open at 1 p.m. (Note that some schedules and even tickets list this as a 7:05 p.m. game.
Dec 20, 2014

It's a 2:05 tip, some tickets show 7:05 @MSUBearsHoops game-day guide: Looking at Eastern Michigan via @springfieldNL

Dec 20, 2014

Bears’ game-day guide: Looking at Eastern Michigan - where the "Iceman" once dealt via @springfieldNL

Mistake at assessor's office hits Nixa school budget — An error at the Christian County Assessor's office will leave Nixa Public Schools short about $47,300 in actual tax dollars of the district's budget - not the $1.9 million reported by another media outlet, according to assessor Danny Gray.

Basketball Bears return home seeking a jump-start — Ten games into the season, Missouri State's basketball fans undoubtedly expected better. The players feel the same way. But with the majority of the season remaining, including all of Missouri Valley Conference play, a couple of the team's veteran leaders are trying to keep the 5-5 record in perspective.

Mueller to headline MSU Baseball First Pitch — New St. Louis Cardinals assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller, a former star at Missouri State, is returning to Springfield to help the Bears launch the 2015 season at the annual Bears First Pitch and Reunion Night on Feb. 7.

Ozark football coach resigns — The search is on for Ozark's next football coach. Ozark High School football coach Mark Bliss submitted his resignation to the Ozark Board of Education, which accepted the resignation Thursday night. Bliss steps aside after four seasons at Ozark.