MHSAA ruling unfair to schools close to state borders

Published 11:49 am Friday, July 24, 2015

It is our opinion the Mississippi High School Activities Association has upheld its rulebook. It has upheld its stated mission of “We’re here to serve our schools.”

But it is our opinion that at its most core responsibility, the MHSAA has failed the students.

This week, the executive committee of the MHSAA upheld its earlier decision to make out-of-state students ineligible for the extracurricular activities it oversees at its member schools.

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While this is a rule on its books — and abides by a state law for Mississippi’s public schools — it is a rule that has long been ignored, simply because it should not apply in the way in which it is written.

The ruling applies not just to those students wanting to compete in athletics, but also to non-athletic activities such as cheerleading, debate, band, dance teams and choir.

We say again, the MHSAA has failed the students.

At first blush, many would understand such a rule would be needed to keep the balance of fair play among participating schools, but there are problems with it and the decision by the MHSAA appears to be blatant targeting.

The three schools most affected by this new reinforced enforcement, are three parochial schools — all Catholic — in Natchez, Vicksburg and Greenville.

The ruling impacts nearly 80 students in grades K-12 at Cathedral in Natchez, more than a dozen at Vicksburg’s St. Aloysius and about 50 at St. Joseph in Greenville.

In each case, students who might happen to live on the wrong side of a bridge in each community can no longer represent the school they attend in many of the extracurricular activities many students enjoy.

What makes the issue even worse, is many of these students have attended these schools from grade school and are not those recruited to help the football team improve, or those encouraged to come to Mississippi because the band’s trombone section needed more depth.

It is simply an overreach on the part of an organization that appears to be able to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants.

We agree there must be rules in place to limit schools from pulling in and attracting talent simply to improve an athletic team. But this enforcement does not do that.

It is targeted at schools whose only mistake is to be located in an area of Mississippi that borders another state.

These students go to school for an education, a well-rounded education, which is now being threatened because a group of so-called leaders felt being heavy-handed was the best way to handle a rare situation.

While the MHSAA says it is in business to “serve our schools,” it showed with this most recent decision that they are in no way in business to “help our students.”