The county co-op football program has again taken center stage for the Union County School Board, and a vote on the status of the team could come as early as December.
The board opened the meeting hearing from Rickey Neaves of the Mississippi High School Activities Association. Neaves discussed the options for the team; essentially saying the program can remain county-wide and compete as an independent for one more year. At the end of the 2012 season, the board can request an extension, granting the team two more years to compete as an independent before falling into classification.
If Union County were classified after next season, the team would be placed in 5A based on the numbers combined by each school, regardless of how many students play on the team from each individual school. Also emphasized is that there is no guarantee that the MHSAA will grant the school district the two-year extension after next season.
“At the end of next season, we could possibly be classified into a 5A division,” District 5 board member Wayne Mayhon said. “If any of you know about divisions in football, that means a death sentence for our football program in Union County, because we cannot compete at the 5A level.”
The question now is whether to allow the team to play one more year as an independent and risk being placed into 5A in 2013 or to move the varsity program to East Union, where it would compete in 2A. Mayhon stressed that the decision would only affect the varsity program, as the junior high program would remain county-wide.
“I don’t want that to happen,” Mayhon said of the junior high team disassembling. “Say if later on the numbers are there, then we have other options. Two other schools could go together and make a team, but I cannot see us letting the program die with ‘we may have participation.’”
District 3 and District 4 board members Buddy Dixon and Johnny Rakestraw stressed that there is no rush in making a decision, as they can go one more year with the team playing as an independent. Both would like to see what can be done in the next year as far as participation. The 2011 season ended with one only athlete from West Union and Ingomar and three from Myrtle, according to the board.
“It sounds like we can prolong this and try to start promoting this,” Dixon said.
“I don’t really understand the urgency in making a decision right now when we do have another year,” Rakestraw added. “The only negative I can see to this [getting an extension and remaining an independent] is not having division competition. It seems to me, at risk here, is that we’re taking away the opportunity for all of the kids to participate if they want to.”
Mayhon brought to motion a vote to move only the varsity team to East Union and keep the junior high program county-wide, seconded by Mickey Basil of District 2, but all agreed that they would take the next month to fully evaluate all options and again discuss the matter at the December 12 meeting.