By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Mississippi Hound Dogs indoor pro football franchise is finished playing at BancorpSouth Arena this season, a victim of insufficient cash to cover its obligations.
A return engagement by the team in 2013 appears unlikely.
The United Indoor Football League announced Monday night that it will prop up the Hound Dogs for the remainder of the season to assure that rival teams will get their full slate of home dates.
“This is a move that we didn’t want to make, (but) we had to make to ensure the rest of the teams in the south can play all seven of their home games,” UIFL commissioner Jared Lorenzen said in a statement.
The UIFL also announced that Martino Theus will return as coach for the team’s remaining games.
The Hound Dogs had two remaining home games on their schedule, but they will not be played. Theus said he will assemble a team for three road games.
“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 780, a season-low.
BCS Arena manager Todd Hunt said the facility would “not lose any money” from the decision to not play the two remaining home games, which had been scheduled for May 14 and May 26.
“While we’re financially protected, we’re not happy they decided to leave without completing the season,” Hunt said Monday night.
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 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 today 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 in mid-afternoon. “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.”
Bingham was named head coach when Theus was fired after the team’s 0-3 start.
Now, Theus will step in again.
“This is certainly not what I wanted, but I respect the league too much not to help,” he said.
His first task will be to quickly assemble to a team to visit the Florida Tarpons on Saturday.
“I’ll get some guys from here in Jackson, some guys from Tupelo, some other players I know and we’ll put together a team and play,” Theus said.
The Hound Dogs were the third indoor pro football team to play in BCS Arena, following the FireAnts (2001-05) and MudCats (2007-08).