Possibility of moving the site of football state championship games discussed

In a scenario being discussed by officials with the Mississippi High School Activities Association, the state championship weekend would be rotated between the campuses of the state’s “Big Three” football programs at Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi. File photo

In a scenario being discussed by officials with the Mississippi High School Activities Association, the state championship weekend would be rotated between the campuses of the state’s “Big Three” football programs at Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi.
File photo

JACKSON — In the past three seasons, Picayune has beaten both Starkville and Oxford for the Class 5A state football championship in Mississippi Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Jackson.

But imagine of the Maroon Tide would have had to travel to the home cities of those two opponents to play for the state title.

In a scenario being discussed by officials with the Mississippi High School Activities Association, the state championship weekend would be rotated between the campuses of the state’s “Big Three” football programs at Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi.

On Monday, MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said that the MHSAA is exploring playing its football state championships on college campuses in the near future.

Since 1992, the state championships in all classes have been held at Jackson’s 60,492-seat Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. However, general dissatisfaction from fans and MHSAA member schools on the age and condition of the stadium — which opened in 1950 and is operated by Jackson State University — has led the MHSAA to look into moving the games to Mississippi State and Ole Miss on a rotating basis.

“We’ve been looking at the possibility of having football championships at universities for a while and we’re still looking at that,” Hinton said. “But there’s been no definite move to do that. With the state championship games having just ended (in early December), we have some more time to look at that. We’re still talking to our schools and still looking for the best facilities for our teams to play.”

For Picayune, just as an example, the Maroon Tide could well have had to play Starkville at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville and Oxford at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium in Oxford.

“I don’t think it would really have been fair in those circumstances, but I’m not against them moving the games at all,” veteran Picayune head coach Dodd Lee said. “There are going to be certain cases where it might not be the best case for a certain team, but overall I think it would be a good idea.”

If the rotating college campus plan is implemented, it’s likely MHSAA championship game sites would alternate depending upon where that year’s Egg Bowl is played. If the Egg Bowl is in Oxford, the state championships would be in Starkville, and vice versa.

That plan is similar to one in use in Alabama, which alternates its state championship games based on where the annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn is played. The state championships are held alternately at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa and Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.

“We’re getting a lot closer than we have in the past” said MHSAA associate director Rickey Neaves, after Monday’s MHSAA District 1 winter meeting. “I’m gonna say we’re 70-75 percent there. Coaches are for it and, of course, our contract’s up with Memorial Stadium. It’s just a process of finishing putting everything together.”

Neaves said the MHSAA has had “extensive” talks with officials at all three colleges, and all favor the move.

The new plan would have to pass with a majority of votes by the executive committee in February and June.

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