PATSY BRUMFIELD: Soccer case raises questions about MHSAA



Man, I learn something every day.

Take last week, for instance: A federal judge could not stop the Mississippi High School Activities Association from discriminating against soccer players because MHSAA officials state a rational purpose for the rule.

Sixteen high school soccer players and their parents went to court to stop enforcement of a new rule relating to how many independent club players can play on a high school team.

They insisted their equal protection rights under the constitution were being violated because some people got to play and others did not.

Although the judge said MHSAA could be sued, she said the purposes of its rule are rational related to its interest of promoting fair competition in schools, “although better alternatives may exist.”

What was striking during the hearing was MHSAA’s admission that its new rules – two years in the making, its director said – are messy, apparently copied and pasted from Louisiana, and that it enforces some of them and just looks the other way when one conflicts with another.

Sometimes it’s hard not to just shout out in the courtroom, “You said, what?!!!” However, working the past six years in federal court, I just put my hand over my mouth and swallow hard.

Now I’ve gotten curious. Who else has had experiences with MHSAA they’d like to talk about?

This is a rock I’d like to look under.

MHSAA, a Clinton-based nonprofit, arose out of the Legislature’s authority to state schools for an association to oversee academic and athletic competitions, including band, poetry, debate society etc.

MHSAA said it has a statewide process for rule making that starts in the local/district level, where school representatives meet and discuss what needs to happen or not. Those successful issues proceed up through a hierarchy to be voted at the highest level, in the fall and in the spring.

If your issue gains support both times, you’ve got change.

But what if your local representatives don’t read their emails, or don’t bother to tell anybody else about the issues at hand? How are parents, teachers and others to gain information, if the issues aren’t publicized well enough?

Testimony in last week’s hearing showed that Tupelo’s soccer coach did not hear about the participation rule change until late May, even though it was approved months before.

Starkville’s independent club coach, who maintains close ties with the high school team, said he didn’t hear about it until June.

There’s something broken, but it’s not easy to see how it gets repaired.

Critics claim there’s politics involved, too. Sectionalism. Sportsism. OleBoyism. Imagine that.

Apparently, it is an imperfect system. It makes you wonder if there might be a better way.

Patsy R. Brumfield writes a Thursday column. Contact her at patsy.brumfield@journalinc.comor (662) 678-1596.

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  • Eric Johnson

    Great Opinion Piece. Keep it up Patsy. THE MEMBER SCHOOLS SHOULD THROW OUT THE NEW HANDBOOK AND GO BACK TO LAST YEAR HANDBOOK. Take a look at the MHSAA member school application . It says that the member schools, not the MHSAA, are supposed to make a sincere effort to notify the public of the rules. Did any member school or the MHSAA make a public notice of a rule change, or a COMPLETELY NEW PLAGIARIZED HANDBOOK? I don’t think so. The NEW MHSAA 2013-2014 Handbook wasn’t passed out until the the only MHSAA district rules meeting on July 31, 2013. Does that give our member schools time to notify the public of a rule change in a timely manner? After the meeting our AD had to make a special trip to Clinton just to ask a question regarding one of these rule interpretations from Executive Director Don Hinton. He was notified of another one while there, and then we even learned of another one last week at the hearing. THE MEMBER SCHOOLS DESERVE BETTER FROM THE MHSAA!

  • Eric Johnson I uploaded the MHSAA handbooks to this link. If you are interested you can download the MHSAA handbooks from 2012-2013 and THE NEW ONE 2013-2014 by clicking link and downloading the .pdf from swap file.

    • Eric Johnson

      The MHSAA told us in testimony that the NEW HANDBOOK could only be downloaded by those that have access to the member section. Maybe the member schools should post them to their websites to notify the public since the MHSAA won’t. What a arrogant association operating on our money.

  • Kevin

    So I’ve been schooled on the overreach of the regulatory agency known as the MHSAA on this forum and through DJ editorials. It seems to me as if the MHSAA wants to hold a monopoly on high school activities and the soccer rule has been designed to either bust up club soccer leagues or to prohibit club soccer stars from participating in the sport for their local high school. That’s what it seems like to me.

    Yet I’ve attended a high school soccer game as recently as 5 years ago. A Jackson-area school, stacked with club-league talent, pummeled a rural school 15-0. Every kid got to play–at least that’s how the coaches rationalize such a beat down. I followed some soccer in the Clarion-Ledger that year and noticed that most of the scores were lopsided whenever Jackson area teams played teams from North Mississippi, competing only equitably with Tupelo and maybe Oxford and Starkville. Baseball and softball have mercy rules. Reason why I say this is because one of the kids on the losing team that day got seriously injured when the score was 14-0 and more than 12 minutes remaining in the game. I’m wondering of other sports, especially soccer and football should adopt the same policy.

    • Eric Johnson

      The elimination of the Soccer exemption will do EXACTLY the same thing to
      our community, and ones like Starkville, and Oxford, compared to the larger Metro Areas like Jackson or the Gulf Coast. I agree with the
      Judge. There has to be a better way. Why did the MHSAA allow the con?