It’s official: St. Al, Cathedral join MAIS

Published 9:53 am Friday, July 31, 2015

St. Aloysius and Cathedral, archrivals on the field, officially exited the Mississippi High School Activities Association hand-in-hand Thursday.

Both Catholic schools submitted their letters of resignation to the MHSAA, the last formal step in ending a decades-long affiliation with the sanctioning body.

It was more formality and courtesy than necessity, St. Al principal Dr. Buddy Strickland said, but also a step he felt needed to be taken after his school had been in the MHSAA since its inception in the 1920s.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“We didn’t want to burn any bridges,” Strickland said. “We valued our time in the MHSAA, and we hope we can continue to work together in the future.”

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said Wednesday, after St. Al and Greenville-St. Joseph had announced their intentions to join the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, there is no clear, formal procedure laid out in the MHSAA handbook for a school that wants to withdraw its membership. He speculated that some form of written notice was required, but there are no clear legal obligations for a school to do so.

Both Hinton and MAIS director of activities Les Triplett, however, had declined comment until they’d received official word, which implied some written notice of resignation was preferred even if it wasn’t necessary for a school to switch associations.

Greenville-St. Joe turned in its notice Wednesday. St. Al and Cathedral followed suit a day later. Strickland said he faxed in St. Al’s letter Thursday afternoon. In a statement released on its web site, the MHSAA acknowledged it had received and accepted the resignations.

The Catholic schools withdrew from the MHSAA following last week’s ruling that banned out-of-state students from participating in athletics and sanctioned extracurricular activities. St. Al has 14 such students. Cathedral has 78 and Greenville-St. Joe nearly 50.

“The Mississippi High School Activities Association received official notification today that St. Aloysius High School in Vicksburg and Cathedral High School in Natchez have resigned their memberships in the MHSAA,” MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said in the association’s statement. “We were aware this could be a possibility after the MHSAA Executive Committee voted to enforce in its entirety Article 3.1.7 of the MHSAA Handbook, which allows eligibility only for students who reside in Mississippi.

“Cathedral and St. Aloysius have been valued members of the MHSAA for many years,” the statement continued.

“We appreciate their long history of contributions to our association. We also recognize each school must find the best fit for its athletic and activities programs.

The Executive Committee consists of 15 school administrators from across the state. The committee members felt limiting participation in MHSAA athletics and activities to students who reside in Mississippi was a matter of fairness and consistency for all of our public, parochial and private schools.”

The three Catholic schools have not yet formally been introduced as members of the MAIS, but that announcement is expected to come today. Representatives from the three Catholic schools are scheduled to meet with MAIS officials today in Pearl for a transitional and organizational meeting.

On Wednesday, MAIS executive director Shane Blanton acknowledged that his group had met with and “considered an overture for membership from established schools in Mississippi,” and that the MAIS would issue a statement on the matter “by the close of business on Friday.”

Blanton’s statement did not specifically name the schools that had applied for membership.

Although the rift between the Catholic schools, the MHSAA and its other member schools had reached a point of separation, Strickland stressed that there were no hard feelings between the groups.

“What I said in the letter was, we regret doing it. We valued our time in the Association. We reached an impasse on this rule, and we felt that every child should have an opportunity to participate in every activity,” Strickland said.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest