By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
It seems apparent that the MHSAA State Football Championship Games may soon be exiting the
Jackson metro area.
And while most area coaches say that moving to nicer facilities on NCAA Division I campuses may enhance things for the players and fans, at least one wishes it would stay right were it is — Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.
“I like it in Jackson,” said veteran Louisville High School head football coach M.C. Miller, who led his Wildcats to the 2013 MHSAA Class 3A State Championship at the venue last December. “Jackson is kind of a central location. If they want to move it they could look at Mississippi College or Belhaven, somewhere in the Jackson area.
“That’s what we always talk about, going to Jackson,” he said. “We will play wherever, but I just think Jackson is a better location.”
“Personally, I will play in your back yard if I am playing for a state championship,” said Eupora High School head coach Junior Graham. “In Louisiana they go all the way to New Orleans and it hasn’t seemed to hurt them any. Some folks are going to have to travel, but the thing is what is best for the game and for the kids. We can’t lose the whole big picture.”
There has been serious talk about moving the games on a rotating basis to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and USM on some type of rotating basis as early as this season.
Reportedly the MHSAA is close to announcing a deal with MSU and Ole Miss from 2014-2017, with USM hosting the games in 2018.
“I think it is a good idea,” said French Camp Academy head coach Nathan Wright, who saw his Panthers play for the MHSAA Class 1A title at Memorial Stadium in Jackson in both 2012 and 2013. “There are going to be some disadvantages to some as far as having to make a longer trip, but I think as far as facilities and exposure it is much better.
“Definitely the facilities will be a lot better,” he said. “I think this really makes sense.”
“I thought (moving the games out of Jackson) was a really good deal,” said Noxapater head coach Casey Orr. “It gives kids from small schools an opportunity to play in some college stadiums that they may never have otherwise.”
Nanih Waiya head coach Tate Hanna agrees. “State and Ole Miss would definitely be an upgrade. I just think it would be so much better for the kids.”
“My opinion is that I don’t care where it is,” said Choctaw County High School head football coach and athletic director Adam Dillinger. “You can send me to wherever you want. If we get a chance to play in it, we are going to play. If they want to play it on the coast or the southwest part of the state, it doesn’t matter. The fans who want to go are going to go.”
Graham, who is a member of the MSHAA Executive Committee, said that the committee has given the MHSAA leadership the authority to look into moving the championship games.
“I just think time has passed Memorial Stadium by,” Graham said. “When you look at M.M. Roberts Stadium (at USM), or Starkville or Oxford, there is really no comparison. They are so much nicer and the overall facilities are so much better.”
Alabama has moved its title games to a rotating basis at Alabama and Auburn. “I got a chance to go to watch some of the games at Auburn and it was incredible,” he said. “The atmosphere was just the best.”
While some wonder what will happen to the tradition of playing in the capitol city, Graham quickly notes that originally the games were played at various sites throughout the state, before moving to Mississippi College in Clinton and then to Memorial Stadium in Jackson.