GENE PHELPS: Two venues a must for enlarged tournament in Jackson

mhsaa logo, no bkgdJACKSON

The Mississippi High School Activities Association has it easy this year running the state basketball tournament – 48 games, eight days, one site.

Piece of cake.

Well, that’s compared to the task the state’s governing body of high school athletics and activities will have when the newly expanded 2015 tournament is played.

The MHSAA legislative branch approved a proposal last month that would bring more teams – 88 instead of 48 – to the state tournament.

“If we choose to expand and play more games, then that’s what we do,” MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said. “We’ll have a great tournament, we’ll just have to play at two sites.”

Both of the venues, Hinton said, would be in the Jackson area. Of course, the main site for the semifinals and finals would be Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum.

Big House, big issue

Love it or hate it, the well-worn Big House is still “the destination” for high school basketball coaches and players.

Hinton’s job is to find another venue to play 24 state quarterfinal tournament games in during a four-day span. It would take scheduling six games per day, including four 9 a.m. starts at each site, to get the games in.

Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum would be a logical choice, but the facility already houses the private school state tournament and its overall tournament each year. Jackson State’s arena could be the solution. It will be used in the coming weeks for the annual Mississippi/Alabama games and the annual MAC North/South games. Holmes Community College up the road in Goodman could also be considered.

When it comes to selecting a venue, “we’re looking at a number of things,” Hinton said. “Seating is a big issue.”

Once the MHSAA settles on the additional venue, there is a little matter of who plays where. One idea is to rotate the classes between the venues each season. Another solution would be to play all quarterfinal girls games at one site and all quarterfinal boys games at the other.

“We’ve talked about all of that, but nothing has been determined,” Hinton said.

That decision will be no piece of cake.

gene.phelps@journalinc.com