By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Mississippi Hound Dogs indoor pro football franchise is finished playing in Tupelo this season, a victim of insufficient cash to cover its obligations.
The United Indoor Football League released a statement Monday night to address the team’s status. The league is propping up the Hound Dogs for the remainder of the season to assure that rival teams will get their full slate of home dates.
Also, the UIFL announced that Martino Theus will return as head coach for the team’s remaining games.
Theus said he will assemble a team to play three games, all on the road. The Hound Dogs has two remaining home games on their schedule, but they will not be played here.
“We’ll pack up our cars and hit the road,” said Theus, who lives in Jackson, Tenn.
The Hound Dogs fell to 1-6 in their inaugural season on Saturday night, with a 60-25 loss at home to the Eastern Kentucky Drillers. Official ticket sales for the game at BancorpSouth Arena was announced as a season-low 780.
BCS Arena official Todd Hunt said the facility would “not lose any money” from the decision to not play the two remaining home games.
Details about the current ownership of the team appeared murky over the weekend, as indoor football sources told the Daily Journal that the UIFL was prepared to step in and take over.
The team’s general manager, Marty Cooper, said Monday he was unclear about the league’s intentions. “I’m still talking with the league about where we go from here,” said Cooper, who took over ownership of the team earlier in the year. “We’re trying to figure it all out.”
The Hound Dogs coach at the start of the day, Eric Bingham, said that out-of-town players had been told they would have to leave the local Days Inn by Tuesday because the hotel had not been paid.
“We’ve got guys who have not been paid, the hotel hasn’t gotten paid and I haven’t gotten paid,” Bingham said. “I can’t expect these guys to come out and sacrifice their health and livelihood for nothing. I can’t ask them, I won’t ask them to do that any more.”
Mississippi was scheduled to visit the Florida Tarpons on Saturday. The team normally would do light conditioning on Monday, then resume work for the next game on Tuesday.
“I know I won’t be there,” Bingham said. “I seriously doubt these guys will be there.”
Read more in Tuesday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.