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MC Choctaws excited about climb to D-II

There’s excitement in the air on the Mississippi College campus in Clinton. The Choctaws are returning to NCAA Division II status in athletics, pending final approval by the NCAA next July.

     The long-range effects of MC moving from Division III to II are encouraging. On the horizon is membership in the revamped Gulf South Conference. MC’s coaches are grinning and rubbing their hands together in gleeful anticipation.

     MC athletic director Mike Jones said MC president Dr. Lee Royce, the MC board of trustees and the coaches carefully weighed their options and made the decision.  “The bottom line is that it is a good thing. We have been trying for years to find something (conference) that would fit our position in Division III.”

     Since 1997, MC has been D-III. In other words, athletic scholarships were not available. There are many types of financial aid for student-athletes but no direct athletic funding available in D-III.

     Jones said Royce and the Gulf South Conference have discussed their membership on several occasions. In the good old days, from 1972-96, the Choctaws were GSC members.

     When the decision to join D-III was made, the rabid in-state rivalry with GSC member Delta State vanished. Those intense duels with North Alabama and West Alabama (Livingston) also became history.

     Jones said the GSC footprint has changed. “They have more private institutions.” Plans are to increase GSC membership to 12 schools and probably form two 6-team divisions.

     Currently, Delta State, West Alabama, North Alabama, Christian Brothers, Alabama-Huntsville, West Florida and West Georgia are GSC members. Shorter and Union become full members in 2013. Florida Tech will join as a football member next year.

     MC had competed well in D-III and is a current member of the American Southwest Conference.

      “Right now, we play all of our games over in Texas,” said Jones, referring to road trips. “The amount of travel time is very important for our student-athletes.”

     Jones said four ASC members are pulling out: McMurray is moving to D-II. Centenary, Shriner and Texas Lutheran are joining the SCAC.

     Jones pointed to the D-II credo: “Life in the balance.” The emphasis is on the student-athlete.

     Looking ahead, D-II will allow 36 scholarships for football and 10 scholarships for basketball. MC men’s basketball coach Don Lofton, a Brookhaven native, anticipates improved recruiting.

     “Our coaches are excited about the opportunity,” said Jones. “It will be a good thing for everyone.”

     MC, supported by the Southern Baptist Convention, attracts students from around the world. The athletic facilities are exceptional.

     “We have great facilities,” said Jones. “Our school academically, is as good as any school in the country.”

     Jones is so energized by the upward climb, he plans to postpone his retirement a few years. “I want to see this transition through.”

 

     Meanwhile, Professor Hoopla B.S. was dreaming about retirement and an autumn vacation in the Smokey Mountains. Mt. Mitchell can be beautiful this time of year.

     Hoopla dropped off his weekly list of prognostications Wednesday. It was stained with barbeque sauce. Last week he predicted the winners of 24 games and got 18 right.

     He’ll start this week’s menu with a pair of Thursday night, community college specials.

     Co-Lin at Itawamba: Another long bus ride results in another victory for the Wolfpack. Co-Lin 24-14.

     Southwest at Hinds: The Eagles are in a foul mood after losing three straight games. Hinds 36-19.

     West Jones at Brookhaven: A fired up home crowd cheers for the Panthers who almost salvage a homecoming victory. West Jones 24-17.

     Brookhaven Academy at Bowling Green: Cougars snap a 2-game skid in picturesque Franklinton, La. Brookhaven Academy 28-14.

     Wesson at Loyd Star: Winless Hornets give it their best shot against their archrivals. Wesson 29-14.

     Bogue Chitto at Hartfield: Undefeated Bobcats enjoy their visit to the Capital City. Bogue Chitto 41-12.

     West Lincoln at Richton: Unbeaten Rebels are having a banner campaign above the salt domes. Richton 42-19.

     Amite County at Enterprise: Win-starved Trojans put a damper on homecoming festivities at Harry Cole Field. Amite County 31-16.

     Franklin County at Hazlehurst: No. 1-ranked Indians go on the warpath against the rival Bulldogs. Hazlehurst 29-14.

     Lawrence County at Tylertown: Chiefs have enough speed and firepower to make this game get ugly in a hurry. Tylertown 44-13.

     Copiah Academy at Silliman: Colonels almost win their first game of the season. Silliman 26-21.

     In other area games, Parklane over Starkville Academy 28-20, Purvis over North Pike 16-14, Columbia over South Pike 19-12, Wilkinson County over Jefferson County 44-18, Crystal Springs over Prentiss 24-12, and Wayne County over McComb 37-21.

     After sipping a Coke Zero, Hoopla reveals the winners of Saturday’s college games.

     Boise State at Southern Miss: High-octane offense is too much for the Golden Eagles to handle. Boise State 48-19.

     Miss. State at Kentucky: No. 20-ranked Bulldogs survive a scare in Bluegrass Country. State 28-17.

     Texas A&M at Ole Miss: Fresh from winning their first-ever SEC game, the Aggies tour Oxford and escape with another big win. Texas A&M 32-22.

     In other Magnolia State action, Arkansas-Pine Bluff over Jackson State 38-20, Southern U. over Alcorn State 48-12, Alabama A&M over Valley State 41-10, Delta State over Tarleton State 18-14, Millsaps over Huntington 22-7, Mississippi College over Sul Ross State 30-20 and Belhaven over Kentucky Christian 28-10.

     Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: tgoetz@dailyleader.com