Will State Football Championship GamesNew Location Present a Travel Advantage for North Schools?

By Sedrick Durr

Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer

 

The dust has cleared in the battle for North and South State Football supremacy and now the each champion is looking to become the Mississippi’s best overall.  But for the first time since the Class 1A to Class 5A/6A format began in 1984, the state title games will not take place in or around the Capital City.

In a recent move decided by the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA), all 2014 championship games will be played in Starkville.  This will be followed by prospective champions to compete in Oxford in 2015.  This also includes a move to bring the Mississippi Alabama All-Star game to Hattiesburg in 2016.

While the decision for these events were made during the summer, the reality has now set in that no activity involving high school football will be demonstrated this weekend in Jackson.

Oak Grove, who comes in as the defending 6A champion, will now have to travel 185 miles to take on the north champion South Panola who will drive 121 miles. Although the significance is not great, the Warriors’ journey will take them 100 miles farther while the Tigers’ distance will decrease about 20 miles.

Although that game will does not appear to show a major advantage from a travel standpoint, one may seem to differ in the 4A contest between St. Stanislaus and Noxubee County.  The same could be said for the Bassfield and Calhoun City in Class 2A action.

The Rock-A-Chaws of St. Stanislaus will cover and estimated 270 miles one way compared to 35 for Noxubee County. Had this game remained in Jackson the discrepancy in travel would have only been about 50 miles.

Meanwhile the nearest distance between Bassfield in Starkville is 153 miles which is almost 100 miles more than their opponent with all the marbles on the line.

With this information in mind, travel may not hinder every south champion on an annual basis, but that would depend on the winner and the location of their school.However the layout of the schedule can bring more significant travel advantages for North schools.

For example if the Class 5A title game comes down to the same two schools next season, then you would have Oxford basically hosting Laurel. That could have been the case this year if Starkville had not fallen short of South Panola last week.

Of course, one could say that those advantages presented themselves for the south prior to the decision to move, clearly when you extreme north teams competed against those schools located in the Jackson area.  However, something could also be said about the idea of all teams and fans being presented with the opportunity to compete in the centermost area of the state. Regardless of those results, the MHSAA is betting their decision on the access of college campus stadiums and the student athlete’s potential desire to gain more exposure.

Time will tell beginning this weekend if that decision pays off.