Many private schools prefer a wait-and-see attitude

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 28, 2001

While many coaches and fans are eagerly embracing the newopportunity for public schools to play private schools, somemembers of the Mississippi Private School Association are taking await-and-see attitude.

Ken Powell, president of the Brookhaven Academy school board,expressed cautious optimism regarding the future of his schoolcompeting against public schools on the athletic fields. Accordingto Powell, everything hinges on the school board’s approval ordisapproval.

The MPSA and the Mississippi High School Activities Associationagreed last week to permit schools from both organizations to playeach other. The MHSAA added a stipulation that MPSA teams must beaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools tobe eligible. Thirty-one private schools are SACS approved, amongthem Brookhaven Academy, Copiah Academy and McComb Parklane Academyfrom this area.

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“The competition is definitely dictated by size,” said Powell,in reference to a school’s enrollment. “I would hope for agood-natured rivalry.”

At Copiah Academy, headmaster Carol Rigby said athletic directorHugh Knight and the school board would determine public schoolopponents. “There must be a mutual understanding on the subject.Any new opponents must be approved by the board.”

Jackson Prep, the largest MPSA member with 600 students ingrades 9-12, is scheduled to host George County (1,023 students) onAug. 31, in Jackson. It will be the first football game playedbetween MPSA and MHSAA member schools.

Under the new regional football format installed by the MHSAAthis spring, there are few open dates and fewer opportunities toschedule private schools this season. There are more game datesavailable in basketball, baseball, softball and other springsports.

Ronald Greer, head football coach, athletic director andassistant high school principal at Wesson, said the opportunity toplay private schools would benefit his athletic budget. “It wouldhelp reduce travel. It would be a chance to play some games closerto home and develop new rivalries.”

Brookhaven Academy girls basketball coach Barry Gray also servesas his school’s athletic director. Gray said he would be in favorof playing Lincoln County schools in basketball.

“I hope we can work something out,” said Gray. “I think it’s agood thing for local teams to be playing each other.”

Brookhaven Academy boys basketball coach Dale Watts said theopportunity to play local teams in basketball would benefit bothsides. “In Mississippi it will be good for everyone. We play eachother all during the summer months.”

Andrew Hickman, Brookhaven High School’s new athletic directorand head football coach, was instrumental in arranging the JacksonPrep-George County game while he was still employed by GeorgeCounty. He said the financial benefits of BHS playing Jackson Prepand Madison-Ridgeland Academy would be shown in large gatereceipts.

“I would have to get the school superintendent and the schoolboard to approve it,” said Hickman. “It gives us another avenue forscheduling games.”

Enterprise head football coach Ricky Deere said he would welcomethe opportunity to play Brookhaven Academy in football. “I wouldreally enjoy playing them.”

Loyd Star girls basketball coach Lori Britt said the agreementbetween the MHSAA and the MPSA was a one-year deal, with nolong-range provisions. “If it was just going to be a one-yearnovelty, I wouldn’t be for it.

“If it were to continue over an extended period of time, I wouldfavor playing Brookhaven Academy,” said Britt. “It would be goodcrowd interest. A lot of times we have to travel far to find acompetitive game and they’re just 10 miles from us.”

Lincoln County Superintendent of Education Perry Miller saideach county school is responsible for scheduling opponents, eitherpublic or private. “That would be a decision left up to eachprincipal and their coaches.

“If you don’t sell tickets to games, your athletic program canget in financial trouble,” Miller continued. “You’ve got to selltickets to make a program successful.”

Basketball appears to be the most acceptable sport for both thepublic and private schools to compete in at this time.