It's hard to see this ending well for the Mississippi Hound Dogs.
The first-year indoor pro football team fell to 1-6 on Saturday night with a third consecutive home loss, 60-25 against the Eastern Kentucky Drillers.
That's back-to-back ugly home efforts, after a 60-12 thumping by the Lakeland Raiders on April 7.
Saturday's loss assures the team of a losing season – the Hound Dogs have four games left, two at home and two on the road. And while a victory over the Drillers would have provided the Dogs with a possible path to the six-team UIFL playoffs, it's not reasonable to ponder that now.
Beyond the question of wins and losses is the issue of the team's continued viability in the Northeast Mississippi market.
The official ticket-sales number for Saturday's game was a season-low 780. That's probably close to the actual headcount, and it's way short of the 2,000-plus needed for the team's budget to work.
There might have been a FireAnts crowd that small back in the day, I can't say for sure. And it's hard to compare headcounts with the MudCats, as they were more generous with freebie tickets in an effort to get fans in the stands.
But budget issues were behind the whispers at midweek that the team might not be in a position to play on Saturday. Road trips – the team goes to Florida this weekend – represent an additional expense with no potential offset from home gate receipts, if any.
Hound Dogs officials talked about this inaugural season helping to build toward the team's future in Tupelo. It's hard to see how this season has done anything but bolster the case that Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi still isn't populous enough to support a minor league sports franchise.