BRANDON SPECK: Travel pay more about selfishness than finances

BRANDON SPECK

BRANDON SPECK

TUPELO

New Site has spent a lot of money to make all those Jackson trips to the MHSAA state girls basketball tournament.

From 2008 to 2013, the Lady Royals went to five straight. That’s a total of nine trips – 10 if you count a coaches scouting trip. Keep track even further and it’s “around 12” trips, coach Byron Sparks said.

It’s tough to keep up with all the successes, but it’s easy to keep up with how many outsiders footed the bills. None.

So when a couple of football coaches in South Mississippi selfishly said the high school activities association should help south teams pay their way to Starkville if their teams make it to December’s state championship games, you’ll have to pardon the snickers from the north.

“We didn’t get it. We would have liked to have gotten it if that would have been an option,” Sparks said, “but if you’re playing in the state tournament, we’re willing to do whatever we’ve got to do to get there and play it.”

That never crossed anyone’s mind at New Site. No one north of Jackson has publicly complained about the multiple hotel stays, multiple nights of eating out and multiple trips to the pump.

Sparks didn’t have the figures in front of him, but he does have it and he said it’s a lot.

Same goes in Houston, where the fast-pitch team has made a 148-mile trip three straight years for softball championship series. And they’d do it if it was 348 miles.

If the Hilltoppers’ football team is fortunate enough to make it, coach William Cook will find the money, not ask MHSAA boss Don Hinton for a hand.

“Smaller sports travel all over the state,” Cook said. “I haven’t known a school not going if they get there. That’s part of it.”

So while football teams – five from Northeast Mississippi last season – made the three or four-hour trip to Veterans Memorial Stadium and Baldwyn, Booneville, Byers, Corinth and Ripley routinely plan vacations around basketball tournament trips and Kossuth goes to Pearl for three straight three-game series, teams from the south and central parts of the state are finally starting to feel the travel pinch.

Hinton, the MHSAA’s executive director, said he’d consider helping with the costs. But will he backpay?

“You would want it. It would be fair,” Sparks said.

Sparks grinned, almost joking as he said such. Because neither New Site nor any other North Mississippi schools have asked for it. And they probably wouldn’t even if Hinton opens that box.

At New Site, the parents pay. The school pays. The boosters pay.

And if even one southern school isn’t willing to pay a little more and drive a bit farther for an opportunity for their kids to play on an SEC field, it’s more about a selfishness than it is an issue of location.

brandon.speck@journalinc.com