‘We’re going to Jackson’ is a thing of the past for football teams who will play in the state championship finals.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association announced the change in location for the 1A through 6A championship games from the capital city of Jackson to Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss.
MSU will host this year’s finals on December 5 and 6, and again in December 2016, while the University of Mississippi will host the games in 2015 and 2017.
“For us, it’s all about our students, whether it’s athletics or an activity like dance or band. We want the best facilities and venues possible,” MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said during Monday’s press conference.
The MHSAA considered a model which is used for the Alabama High School Activities Association where Auburn and Alabama trade hosting duties.
For the AHSAA, whoever isn’t hosting the Iron Bowl traditionally hosts the high school championships, Hinton said.
With the four-year schedule established by the MHSAA for the championships, both MSU and Ole Miss will follow the model set by Alabama and Auburn.
“I think it’s a great thing, we are in North Mississippi so they are a little closer to home but, more than that, it’ll give these kids a chance to play on an SEC football field and to experience those facilities and those type of things. It’s one thing to tell young men about it and another to experience, I’m thankful they decided to do that,” East Union Head Football Coach Scott Duley said.
The University of Southern Mississippi will enter in consideration for hosting duties after the four-year contract with Ole Miss and Mississippi State has expired, Hinton said.
In the meantime, USM will alternate hosting duties with Alabama State for the Mississippi Alabama All-Star game beginning in 2015. The Golden Eagles will host again in 2017 after 27 years of the game being played exclusively in Alabama, Hinton said.
Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Mississippi will provide corporate sponsorship for the football champion games, and there is an ongoing discussion about compensation for teams who will travel farther with the location move, Hinton said.
The activities association also announced upcoming changes for the basketball quarter-finals in 2015 after a proposal to eliminate the North and South Half tournament was approved during the 2013-2014 school year.
“We have expanded our state basketball tournament from 36 games to 84 games. That tournament will go from eight days to basically 10 days or so,” Hinton said.
All games will be played in Jackson, with girls quarterfinals to be held at the traditional finals venue of Mississippi Coliseum and the boys’ quarterfinals on the campus of Jackson State University.
The semi-finals and the championship game will remain at the coliseum.
Venues for the girls’ quarter-finals and the boys’ quarter-finals are expected to switch in 2016, Hinton said.
The Mississippi-Alabama All-Star basketball game will continue is current rotation between Jackson State and Alabama State.
Currently the association has no plan in place to remove the basketball championships from Jackson.