In athletics, larger talent pools mean more competition

Published 11:45 am Monday, October 1, 2012

Former Vicksburg High School graduate A.J. Stamps said larger numbers would give athletic teams at a consolidated VHS and Warren Central High School an advantage.

Stamps, the career receiving leader in Warren County, said he thought sports would actually smooth the transition should the two schools merge.

When asked how his class would have handled consolidation, the East Mississippi Community College freshman said it undoubtedly would have made their team better, but the rest of the student body might have had problems coming together.

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“I believe the athletic part of it would have been better,” Stamps said. “We would have come together, but it might have been tough for the whole school at first.”

The merging of athletic teams and other extracurricular groups is a major concern for many considering the consolidation of Warren County’s two public high schools.

A larger school means a larger talent pool in athletics and more members for all extracurricular groups, but it also means fewer opportunities for students to participate.


Since the Mississippi High School Activities Association expanded to six classifications in 2009, Warren Central has been among the smallest of 32 schools in Class 6A, the largest classification.

Meanwhile, Vicksburg has gone from being one of the largest in 5A, to one of the smallest schools in 6A.

The MHSAA reclassifies its schools every two years, and since 2011 VHS has been the second-smallest school in 6A, above Natchez High School — and larger by only one student.

Gators’ head coach Tavares Johnson Sr. said that playing at the highest level of Mississippi high school football requires a deep roster.

“It’s a war of attrition,” Johnson said. “I know we could use a few more players.”

Johnson pointed to a recent ninth-grade game between Madison Central and Vicksburg in which the Gators suited up 25 freshmen. He said Madison Central had more than 100.

On the varsity squad, the Gators field 65 players, while Warren Central head coach Josh Morgan said the Vikings are fielding 73.

Within the two teams’ region, Clinton has 86 varsity players, Madison Central has 99 and Northwest Rankin fields 94.

Large numbers don’t always translate into championships, however. Petal and Olive Branch, who faced each other in the 2011 Class 6A State Championship, were 29th and 25th respectively in student population among 6A schools.

In athletics, the biggest argument against consolidation is that fewer teams will translate into fewer opportunities for athletes to start and star in their respective sports.

When asked how many players might lose the chance to play football if the schools merged, Morgan’s answer was simple, “It would be a good amount.”

Ole Miss junior David May graduated from Warren Central in 2009. He played both football and tennis at WCHS and said he saw both sides of the issue.

“It seems like a good idea because you’d have more athletes to choose from, but it takes away the opportunities for a lot of kids,” May said. “You don’t have tryouts for football, so if you had 200 kids coming out, a lot of kids aren’t going to be able to play.”

Other extracurriculars

Along with the various athletic squads, other extracurricular groups such as bands also would be forced to merge.

Currently, Big Blue at WCHS has 163 members and the VHS Pride has 140, representing two of the largest groups at their respective schools.

With a potential for more than 300 members, the obvious logistical challenges would include finding an adequate band hall, transportation and equipment.

WCHS director Alan Arrendale declined to comment on consolidation, and VHS director Lee Winters did not return calls for comment.

Because most clubs do not cap numbers, having a place for them to meet also would be a concern.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, one of the largest extracurricular groups, has more than 250 members at each school.