The Mississippi High School Activities Association's adoption of a Final Four format for its 2010 state boys and girls basketball tournaments was a surprising, but predicted move with the addition of a sixth classification for the 2009-10 school year.
The new format ends the third-seeded team's trip to the "Big House" in Jackson. Instead, the top two teams from the North and South will play semifinals and finals on the floor of the Mississippi Coliseum.
"I think it's going to be better," said MHSAA executive director Dr. Ennis Proctor, who cited financial concerns for member schools as the determining factor in the proposed change. "It's better to have the North and South bring the final two, which gives us a Final Four format ... something we can promote."
Last year's five-classification state tourney field featured 60 teams - 30 boys, 30 girls - playing 12 days over two weeks.
Under the new format the field has been reduced to 48 teams - 24 boys and 24 girls - in six classes and will be played in six days.
Pontotoc athletics director and boys basketball coach Jon Ginn said he'd rather see the MHSAA keep the third-seeded team in the field.
"There's a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment when you make it to state," Ginn said last January. "Now, less folks get to enjoy that experience and thrill."
Baldwyn boys coach Jason McKay agreed with Ginn that more athletes, not less, should get to experience a state tournament. McKay even made a proposal to the MHSAA to add a fourth team to the field.
"This is keeping kids from enjoying a memory of a lifetime," he said.
High School Top 10
1. The MHSAA, with the addition of a sixth classification, adopted a Final Four format for its boys and girls state basketball tournaments and eliminated the third-seeded team.
2. Tupelo football coach Eric Collins resigned late in the season after being accused of a violation of district policy. Veteran coach and MHSAA official David Bradberry replaced him as coach of the Golden Wave.
3. West Point wins the Class 5A state football championship, the school’s sixth, with a 35-14 victory against South power Wayne County.
4. Rainy weather played havoc with girls slow-pitch softball and football scheduling in the fall. Softball teams lost games and football games had to be moved to Saturdays and Mondays.
5. The annual Joe Bowl football game between Tippah County rivals Falkner and Walnut is canceled because of a swine flu outbreak at Falkner.
6. Tupelo Christian Prep joined the public school competition ranks in May when it annouced it was becoming a member of the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
7. Booneville football coach Jim Drewry exited his 50th season one game short of playing for a state championship, but he did become the state’s all-time winningest coach with his 346 victories.
8. Itawamba AHS was awarded the 4A golf championship by the MHSAA following a controversial ending to the state tournament played at River Birch in Amory. New Albany protested, saying Indians golfer Taylor Boggs turned in an incorrect score.
9. Tupelo swimmer Hannah Wilson ended her high school career in the pool with 18 individual state titles and a team state championship. She later signed with Florida State.
10. Fletcher Johnson, a junior at Tupelo High, qualified to play in the prestigious United States Amateur Championships with a USGA sectional qualifying win in Memphis.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal