Vicksburg native Mims leads all-star changes
Published 10:01 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015
By John Davis
The Oxford Citizen
HATTIESBURG — For those that don’t know Johnny Mims, the executive director of the Mississippi Association of Coaches, he’s always a happy man.
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Mims was in a jovial mood last week, just before the annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game.
This year was the first time that the contest that pits the best high school players from each state against each other was played in the Magnolia State.
Before Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium hosted the game Saturday, it was played in Montgomery, Ala., and in Mobile before that. It also used to be played in June, and if a player got seriously hurt, then there was very little chance for them to play as a freshman in college.
Mims, a Vicksburg native, pushed to change that once he became the MAC’s leader in 2000.
“One of the coaches association’s goals is to host the All-Star game. In the process of me trying to coerce them so to speak, to letting us host it every other year, there was no conversation there for a while,” Mims said. “Finally, I think it was about two years ago, I went to them and said it was time. We need to do this. We need to have a shot. They really didn’t embrace it at first. I don’t know if they wanted to let the game go.”
Alabama officials were territorial about the venue, and wanted it kept right there. Mims said he met with Steve Savarese, which is the executive director of the AHSAA, and Don Hinton, who heads up the MHSAA.
“We all sat down and said we’re going to make this happen. We finally agreed to it and now we’re going to start playing it on an every-other-year basis,” Mims said. “Every odd year, it will be in Mississippi.”
There have been some inquiries from Ole Miss to host the game when Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is not the site for the MHSAA state football championships.
“After they go to Oxford in 2017, they are scheduled to bring the state championships down here for two years in a row,” Mims said of USM. “So Ole Miss has approached saying that since Southern is going to have the state championships for back-to-back years, could we move the All-Star game that particular year to Ole Miss. We’ll talk about it.”
The reception from the city of Hattiesburg was great, Mims said.
He added that the mayor embraced the game, even if some of the involvement on the part of Southern Miss and the city was limited by NCAA rules.
“There are certain things we can’t do at USM do to NCAA infractions, so they’re being very careful to keep everything above board,” Mims said. “The rule is they can not administer the game. That’s an NCAA rule. I’ve actually had to get names from them on who they use for security and their ticket takers and all of the stuff it takes to operate the stadium. I’ve basically had to do that myself because they couldn’t do it for me.”
The change from Jackson to Starkville and Oxford for the state football championship games has also gone well. Mims said there was “no doubt” that everything has been a positive for the players.
There were days in the past, Mims recalled, where he was bundled up, with a heater next to him, underneath a stadium just trying to get water so they could boil it to make hot chocolate or coffee. Now, the traditions of the host universities have been incorporated into the high school game day experience, as have the amenities.
“Our goal for these young men was to play in something like that. For 95 percent, or more, that would have been their last high school game to ever play and what a better way than to go out playing on a college venue,” Mims said. “To be able to dress in their locker room and do the Walk of Champions. The city of Oxford could not have been any better. They embraced it. The Ole Miss stadium embraced them. It was like a college atmosphere. It was just tremendous. Last year, the kids got a taste of what they do at State. I think it was a no-brainer. I know we caught a lot of flak when we moved it out of Jackson, but it really has turned out well. I know we’ve had coaches write me letters to say how nice it was.”
The Bernard Blackwell Mississippi All-Star Classic will be played this Saturday in Gulfport. Vicksburg High receiver Tedarious Brown and Warren Central safety Byron Galvin will both play for the North All-Stars.
The Bernard Blackwell game will not be televised, but can be streamed online at the Friday Night Under the Lights web site at fnutl.com.