Suspension of athletics costing programs money

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 2, 2020

Several athletic programs across the county are concerned about their financial situations due to the Mississippi High School Activities Association suspending athletics until April 17.

Not only has the suspension denied players and coaches the opportunity to compete for championships, but the affects off the field are just as serious.

High school athletic programs vary in the way they fund themselves.

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Some rely on concession and ticket sales, others rely on school funding and still others use sponsorships and booster clubs to stay afloat.

The typical systems used by these programs have come to a standstill with athletics suspended and there’s still no telling when games will start back up.

Gate receipts, which is when people pay to watch a game, drives the funding for Poplarville’s baseball program, said Head Coach Slade Jones. However, the team only had two home contests prior to the suspension, meaning the program will have significantly less funding compared to previous years.

“We’re losing a lot of funding. I do think the district will make sure the student athletes will have what they need, but we may not have luxuries for a year or two,” Jones said.

Pearl River Central’s baseball program on the other hand balances the books with a combination of school funding and sales.

Head Coach Neil Walther said concession sales play a big role in the program’s income.

“You’re looking at maybe $4,000 to $5,000 total (lost). With the Picayune game alone that’s $1,000 dollars easy. It stinks, but it is what is,” Walther said.

However, teams are also saving money by not playing games.

Costs of travel, paying umpires and maintaining equipment are all common expenses programs won’t have to deal with during this suspension, but the cons outweigh the pros.

Kristi Mitchell is the Head Coach of the Picayune Lady Maroon Tide softball team and Athletic Director for that school district. She said that the suspension of the softball season has that program’s finances in limbo.

“With everything being shutdown we don’t have any expenses, but we also don’t have anything coming in. Everything is just at a standstill,” Mitchell said.

Fundraisers play a big role for the Lady Maroon Tide by bringing in revenue that can be spent on whatever needs the team has.

Adding in some more fundraisers may be on the cards for the programs as a way to break even.

Mitchell said she’s still hopeful play can start back up at some point and allow the teams to get on the field again. “I’m optimistic the community will do what we have to and stay safe, get the kids back in school and hopefully have an opportunity to play ball. As coaches and players it’s not something we get to make a decision on,” Mitchell said.