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MAIS cancels remainder of 2020 spring sports season

The high school sports season in Mississippi is, officially, over.

The Mid-South Association of Independent Schools announced Tuesday evening that it has canceled the remainder of its championship events for the 2019-20 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director of activities Les Triplett said Wednesday that the MAIS had previously set April 28 as the day to make a decision on whether or not to resume play. When its member schools were polled, however, the overwhelming response was to cancel the rest of the spring seasons for baseball, golf, tennis and track and field.

Triplett said several factors including the six-week layoff since competition was suspended in mid-March, the potential problems of getting athletes back into game shape, and academic issues such as upcoming graduations and schools themselves being shut down for the year all contributed to the response.

Triplett said the MAIS executive committee voted unanimously to cancel the rest of the season.

“Each of our district representatives asked the schools in their districts if they would be interested in resuming. The vast majority of them said we’d rather just wait until next year,” Triplett said. “I think we were one of the ones that held out longer than the others. You hate to give up on something. But it was time to do it. We felt like we did our due diligence to wait as long as we could.”

Most of the MAIS member schools in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee have closed for the year, either on their own or because of restrictions from state and local governments. The MAIS had been taking a week-by-week approach to shutting down for the year and canceling athletics and activities, and as recently as last week announced it was still exploring options for resuming the spring sports seasons in baseball, golf, tennis and track and field.

“Our schools, even though they haven’t opened up, they have the option to. We were hoping that would improve, and by the 28th we figured we would have an idea if it had. The later we waited, the better the opportunity we had,” Triplett said.

The MAIS has approximately 100 member schools in four states, and is not subject to state decisions regarding the closure of public schools. In mid-April, Mississippi governor Tate Reeves and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards both ordered their state’s public schools closed for the year. The high school athletic associations in both states subsequently canceled the rest of the 2020 spring sports seasons.

The MAIS waited two more weeks before making its decision. For most in the MAIS, it was a disappointing decision but also one that has been expected for weeks. The last games were played in the week of March 9, when college, pro and high school sports all over the world quickly suspended operations to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“It was something we knew in the back of our minds was coming, with all the sports getting canceled across the country,” Porter’s Chapel Academy athletic director Wade Patrick said. “You can’t go against the higher governing bodies. To me, it would look foolish if we were trying to play ball when everybody else in the country is shut down.”

St. Aloysius athletic director Mike Jones echoed Patrick’s thoughts.

“We all figured it was coming,” Jones said. “It’s disappointing, mainly for the kids. They were hoping in some form or fashion that something could be done, but nothing could be done.”

Triplett said MAIS schools could begin their offseason programs in the four spring sports as soon as local and state governments ease restrictions on large gatherings and “deem it safe.” There is normally a “dead week” following graduation in May when no activities are permitted, but Triplett said that is being waived given the unique circumstances of 2020.

“We figured eight dead weeks were probably going to be enough,” he said.

The ruling on offseason activities could conceivably allow schools to hold a senior night game or ceremony by calling it a summer game rather than a regular-season game. It’s unclear whether Vicksburg’s two MAIS schools would — or could — however.

Jones said St. Aloysius needs approval from the Diocese of Jackson to resume activities, and that has not yet come. Any games they play in June would also need to be approved.

“A lot of ours depends on what the Diocese tells us. As far as May, nothing’s going to happen. Some time in June, hopefully, maybe, we’ll have something,” Jones said.

Patrick wasn’t sure whether PCA’s baseball team would play during the summer since its players would need to get back into game shape.

“That’s tricky, if you haven’t picked up a ball in that long, to go out there and play,” Patrick 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 sports reporters in the paper's 137-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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