By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The silver ball trophy given to the winners of the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s Grand Slam Championship may become a collector’s item … very soon.
Ennis Proctor, the executive director of the MHSAA, says the 12-team tournament of state champions may not return in 2011 because of poor attendance.
“We’ll definitely have to reconsider playing the tournament if the crowds continue like this,” he said prior to Thursday’s night session. “The crowd was very poor this afternoon and it’s not very good tonight.”
Proctor continued, “I think a lot of people feel like the state championship is the pinnacle. Evidently, the Grand Slam doesn’t mean as much to them.”
Thursday’s opening four-game session featuring the 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A champions drew less than 3,000 fans at the Mississippi Coliseum.
In contrast, the recent eight-day state tournament drew nearly 41,000 paid.
The MHSAA’s executive committee, with a recommendation from Proctor, will make the final decision on whether to continue playing the Grand Slam, which was revived in 2007 after a 25-year absence.
Tupelo, then Jackson
The first two years the tournament was played in Tupelo, where low attendance figures led the MHSAA to move the three-day event to the Mississippi Coliseum.
“We tried it in Tupelo and it worked fairly well, but we didn’t get the attendance there we thought we should have,” Proctor said. “We brought it back to Jackson last year and improved a little on attendance. But now, it looks like we’re back to square one.”
Five years ago, school administrators from around the state voted 80 percent in favor of reviving the Grand Slam. Today, Proctor says coaches are about 50-50 in favor of it.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said on the Slam’s fate. “We won’t make a decision until it’s over.”