The MHSAA state basketball tournament will expand, but don’t expect any of the added games to come to Tupelo.
The proposal to send more teams to the state tournament went unopposed Wednesday through the executive council and legislative committee of the Mississippi High School Activities Association. It will take effect next season.
Each North and South classification currently sends two teams to the state tournament in Jackson in a “final four” format. The expansion will more than double that, with classes 1A-4A sending four teams from each region. Classes 5A and 6A will each send three teams from North and South.
The move will end the current setup of North and South state tournaments. Though the Monday and Tuesday games following division tournaments will likely still be played, the remainder of games to determine who advances to Jackson will be played at top seeds.
“Certainly, we’re proud of what it will do involving so many kids and more schools,” said Baldwyn boys coach Jason McKay. “I just think when it’s all put together, the positives of four teams far outweigh having two.”
McKay and Calhoun City coach Daren Coffey put forward the expansion proposal, after their previous attempt fell short.
The current format lasts eight days. Next season’s tournament will feature 84 games over a two-week period – most likely at two sites, instead of all at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Tupelo had been widely considered an option for the second sight, but MHSAA official Larry Williams said both sites would be in the Jackson area. The exact format is to be determined, but there is a possibility that even with two sites, one being the Coliseum, games could still be played on different days.
Williams wasn’t surprised the proposal passed.
“We’ve been trying for three years to get one through that everybody could live with,” Williams said.
Williams said the sticking point in previous attempts was that teams thought they would get stuck in one particular location for several years, such Tupelo. It was explained that the second site would be rotated.
“You couldn’t drive that point home,” Williams said. “I think the selling point was to do it all in Jackson. Actually, a few folks on the coast and a few in the Delta and one or two in District 4 held that thing up.”
Though associate director Rickey Neaves said Tupelo is not completely out of the mix, the possibility looks slim.
With Tupelo out of the equation, the votes Thursday to pass the expansion proposal were 31-0 and 14-0.