By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Football practice in 2013 will kick off a week later next year as the Mississippi High School Activities Association prepares for the state-mandated later starting date for schools in 2014.
MHSAA executive director Don Hinton says waiting until 2014 to change its activities calendar could have caused scheduling problems.
“We needed to go ahead and do it,” Hinton said. “Our (football) coaches are already penciling in dates for next season.”
Football practice will kick off Aug. 5 next season, instead of late July as it has the last few seasons. The jamborees would be played Aug. 16 and the MHSAA Classic games on Aug. 23.
House Bill 707, which became law July 1, states that starting in 2014, the first day of school can fall no earlier than the third Monday in August.
“We wanted to make sure we kept our 10-game schedule plus the Classic game,” Hinton said. “We wanted to keep our playoffs schedule the same and play our championships the first week in December.”
The annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game is scheduled for second week in December while Mississippi’s annual Blackwell All-Star Game is played prior to Christmas. Both events are sponsored by the Mississippi Association of Coaches and sanctioned by the MHSAA.
12TH GAME COMING?
Three of the state’s six football classifications – Classes 2A, 3A and 4A – play 11 games with no open date and five rounds of state playoffs, while three classes – 1A, 5A and 6A – play 11 games with an open date and four rounds of postseason.
Hinton says there has been some talk of eliminating the open date and playing a 12th game in classes 1, 5 and 6, which have fewer schools.
“With the economy like it is and football driving a lot of athletic budgets, we’re looking at it,” he said. “Coaches hate the open date.”
OPEN TO CHANGE
Until the proposed legislation was voted down last spring, a portion of the MHSAA’s state basketball tournament was going to be played in Tupelo.
There is an effort to get the proposal – which included an increase in the number of teams participating in the basketball state tournament from four to eight – on the agenda for the MHSAA fall executive meeting.
An eight-team tournament would require the use of two venues. Tupelo officials made an offer to play two classifications – 1A and 2A – at the BancorpSouth Arena. The remaining four classes would have remained at Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum.
Hinton is open to moving any of the MHSAA’s athletics and activities to venues around the state.
“Our philosophy is to make a state championship a big deal,” he said. “We think it should be one of the top five experiences of a lifetime.”