Catholic schools fill out paperwork, wait on schedules on first day in MAIS

Published 12:05 am Saturday, August 1, 2015

St. Aloysius coach BJ Smithhart, left, talks to his players after a game last season. St. Al, along with Cathedral and Greenville-St. Joe, was officially introduced as a member of the MAIS on Friday. (Paul Ingram/For The Vicksburg Post)

St. Aloysius coach BJ Smithhart, left, talks to his players after a game last season. St. Al, along with Cathedral and Greenville-St. Joe, was officially introduced as a member of the MAIS on Friday. (Paul Ingram/For The Vicksburg Post)

On its first day as a member of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, St. Aloysius didn’t throw a party, or play a game.

It did paperwork.

Lots and lots of paperwork.

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Officials from St. Al, Greenville-St. Joseph and Cathedral met with those from the MAIS Friday in Pearl to get acquainted and get down to the nitty gritty of filing some of the bureaucratic reports required by the Association’s members.

“It was super. A great meeting. Everybody in that association made us feel welcome and gave us information that we need to fill out,” St. Al principal Dr. Buddy Strickland said. “It was what kind of paperwork we need to file, what reports we need to turn in, we talked about how to file these things and those types of things.”

Earlier this week, the three Catholic schools ended a decades-long affiliation with the Mississippi High School Activities Association. The decision came in the wake of an MHSAA ruling banning out-of-state students from participating in athletics and activities. Combined, the three schools have more than 140 such students enrolled in grades K-12.

Late Friday afternoon, the MAIS released a statement officially announcing the three schools as new members.

“The Mississippi Association of Independent Schools welcomes Cathedral High School, Vicksburg Catholic School (St. Aloysius) and St. Joseph Catholic School of Greenville to membership,” MAIS executive director Shane Blanton said in the statement. “A work session with these schools was held today at the MAIS office. At the meeting, MAIS staff and school representatives discussed MAIS policies/practices, the details of athletic alignment and sports schedules. The participants at today’s meeting developed a plan to integrate these schools into the Association while minimizing changes to current member schools’ fall athletic schedules and to MHSAA member schools’ current schedules.”

The new MAIS members received their district assignments Friday, but not any schedules. Those will be finalized early next week.

The MAIS soccer and fast-pitch softball seasons started Friday, and football season begins Aug. 21. MAIS director of activities Les Triplett said a conference call would be held Monday to discuss soccer schedules, while work on the softball and football schedules is ongoing.

Triplett said it’s possible that large portions of the football schedules for all three teams will remain the same. He said the MAIS and MHSAA have been working together to minimize the upheaval of redoing three teams’ schedules three weeks before the opener.

St. Al and St. Joe had both been in the MHSAA’s Region 2-1A for football, meaning the remaining teams in that region would have three open dates this season — one that was worked into the original schedule and two from the vacancies caused by St. Al and St. Joe’s departure. Some of those games will likely remain in place.

Triplett said the same holds true for cross country and swimming. Both sports often feature multiple-team meets that don’t require any schedule changes, but the Catholic schools would still compete against a number of MHSAA opponents.

“We are working with the MHSAA. We really appreciate Don Hinton and everybody at the MHSAA,” Triplett said. “I think there’s a great level of understanding between both groups. They’re such a class organization.”

St. Al and Cathedral were originally scheduled to play Aug. 21 in Natchez, and St. Al and Greenville-St. Joe were scheduled to play in Greenville on Sept. 25. It seems likely those matchups would remain in place.

“You’re not having to blow the whole thing up,” Triplett said. “Being allowed to keep some of the games on the schedule really helps with that.”

St. Al was placed in District 3-AAA along with Central Hinds, Riverfield (La.), Hartfield Academy, Manchester Academy and Park Place Christian. Unlike its previous MHSAA regions, where many opponents were at least two hours away, St. Al’s furthest drive for a district game this season will be about an hour.

Manchester, located in Yazoo City, is the only school in District 3-AAA not located directly off of I-20.

Cathedral didn’t fare as well in its district assignment. It was placed in District 4-AAA along with Brookhaven Academy, Columbia Academy, Laurel Christian, Simpson Academy and crosstown foe Adams County Christian. For football, it’s one of the toughest districts on any level in the MAIS.

Adams Christian reached the Class AA championship game in 2014, while Simpson and Brookhaven are perennial powers. Cathedral won the MHSAA Class 1A championship last season.

Greenville-St. Joe, meanwhile, was put into District 1-AAA along with Bayou Academy, Indianola Academy, Kirk Academy, Lee Academy and North Delta.

Triplett said the assignments, like most of those in the MAIS realignment cycle that started this year, were based on geography and were a good fit for all of the schools.

“They all fell in there and made perfect sense,” Triplett 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.

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