Reclassification creates questions

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2008

In case you missed it, there was no record-level Richter Scaleearthquake created by thunderous applause from Southaven toPascagoula when the Mississippi High School Activities Associationmade its latest decree. The MHSAA elected to create a 6Aclassification for the 32 largest high schools in Mississippi. Inother words, 5A schools were promoted to 6A.

In pecking order, the next 32 largest schools would become 5A,formerly known as 4A. After that level, the remaining 200 schoolswould be divided into Classes 3A, 2A and 1A. It sounds simple butmany coaches are sporting a doubtful outlook conerning their team’sfuture residence in the classification system.

Obviously, change always results in a number of supporters anddetractors. One of the projected benefits is less travel fordivision/district games. But there are two sides to that story,too, as oil prices boom and gasoline charges towards $5 pergallon.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Brookhaven athletic director and head football coach TuckerPeavey is taking a cautious approach to the new classificationsystem. Naturally, the Ole Brook Panthers will be elevated to Class5A for the two school years of 2009-2011.

Peavey forsees a major increase in travel expenses if teams fromthe Jones County area are involved in Brook’s newdivision/district. For the unknowing reader, Laurel is located 90miles east from BHS. West Jones, Northeast Jones and South Jonesare in that neighborhood, too. Around 40 miles farther east isWaynesboro, home of the Wayne County War Eagles.

Meanwhile, pity the poor, devoted fans. An alternative to familysolo travel could be car-pooling or chartering buses for the roadgames.

“I’m anxious to see what exactly it’s going to be,” said Peavey,referring to reclassification. “I can see it increasing our travelimmensely. You really don’t know until next year’s enrollments comein.”

Speculation abounds. The Panthers could play Terry and otherJackson-area schools in the new format. Scheduling a rivalry gamewith longtime Division 6-4A foe Lawrence County could be difficult,depending on the number of division/district games on the menu.

“Every sport might have to travel over 100 miles one way for aTuesday night game,” said Peavey. That’s tough on the budget andtough on the athletes, too.

While the woeful suffer, consider the mammoth-sized expenses inClass 1A football this past season. Local teams like West Lincolnand Bogue Chitto, are locked into a 10-game region schedule. Itincludes opponents like Puckett, Pisgah, Pelahatchie, Mount Olive,Stringer, Salem, Dexter, Natchez Cathedral and Vicksburg St.Aloysius. That’s a lot of diesel and gasoline.

Obviously, the MHSAA needs to regroup and reassess the regionformat for football. This column would suggest dividing the regionin half to reduce travel expenses. Send the top two teams to thestate playoffs instead of the top four.

In another move, the MHSAA ordered an immediate 10 percentreduction in games for softball, baseball and basketball as ameaure to reduce travel expenses. Softball and baseball coaches arescreaming the loudest. Softball coaches had to submit their finalschedules to the MHSAA office three weeks ago.

Bogue Chitto softball coach Scott Leggett recognized thedilemma. “Reducing the schedule by 10 percent will force us to dropsome of the area rivalry games, like Brookhaven, Loyd Star andNorth Pike.”

Instead of a home-and-home rivalry test next season, it willhave to be either a doubleheader or just a one game set. Usually,the rivalry games draw more fans, ticket revenue and interest thanmany of the division/district games.

Certainly, the energy crunch is affecting all of us. Extracurricular activities at schools could very well feel a painfulreduction if fuel prices remain out of sight.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or