No. 4 Callaway boys, No. 20 Olive Branch girls petition to play in nationals

No. 4 Callaway boys, No. 20 Olive Branch girls petition to play in nationals

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No. 4 Callaway boys, No. 20 Olive Branch girls petition to play in nationals

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Callaway boys and Olive Branch girls basketball teams are petitioning state leaders to overturn the MHSAA ruling that prevents Mississippi teams from playing after their seasons end.

The two programs, both ranked No. 1 in The Clarion-Ledger’s boys and girls Super 10, received an invite for the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals, which will take place at New York City’s Madison Square Garden from April 2-4.

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton spoke with The Clarion-Ledger on Thursday afternoon and explained the rule that does not allow Mississippi teams to participate in events after their season is over.

“We have a rule that during the school year, outside of the sports season of any sport that we have, we don’t allow team participation in postseason tournaments,” Hinton said. “Once the season is over after our playoffs, the season is over.”

The MHSAA operates in a similar fashion as the NCAA. It acts as a governing body to enforce the rules set forth by member schools.

“Our schools make these rules,” Hinton said. “We have small schools that want our students to be able to go on and participate in other sports and some of our schools don’t want the students to be away any longer and out of classrooms.”

The Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals is an event run by Paragon Marketing Group, which also organizes the Geico ESPN High School Showcase. Callaway beat Dominican (Wi.) on Feb. 14 as part of that event, which was televised on ESPNU. The high school national championship will air on all of ESPN’s networks, including ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

The requirements for a team to qualify for the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals are the following:

1. A school must be ranked in USA Today’s Super 25

2. A school must win its state championship

3. A school must receive approval from their state high school athletics association

Callaway is ranked No. 4 and Olive Branch No. 20 in USA Today’s recent Super 25 rankings released on March 10. The Chargers will play for their fourth state title on Friday at 8 p.m. while the Lady Quistors made it to Saturday’s 6A title game for a second straight year.

In January, Olive Branch coach Blake Jones attended a district meeting and took initial steps to overturn the MHSAA’s rule.

“I was told that the procedure to get a rule changed was to bring a proposal to a district meeting, where it is voted on,” Jones said. “From there it goes to the executive committee and then to all of the districts to vote on. I proposed a rule change (to overturn the MHSAA’s postseason rule) and had a set of guidelines made by coaches and it was approved by two votes. … I got a call next week from (MHSAA associate director) Ricky Neaves that the proper guidelines weren’t in place.”

On Wednesday, the Georgia High School Sports Association overturned its decision to not let Wheeler High School play in the
Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals after a petition was filed through http://www.change.org.

Callaway coach David Sanders created a petition on Thursday asking for the Mississippi House of Representatives, State Senate and Governor Phil Bryant to overturn the MHSAA’s rule.

According to Sanders, the Mississippi governor is already behind the Chargers and Lady Quistors.

“From my understanding, (Don Hinton) got a call from Mr. Phil Bryant showing his support for us being able to play in the event,” Sanders said. “The excuse I heard (Hinton) gave is that we already missed too many days of school. That’s just not valid. We’ve been out of state a couple of times this year but all of my guys are doing well in school, and any work they missed they’ve made up. And we already have days built in for weather anyways. That’s just not a good enough excuse.”

Hinton confirmed that he spoke with Governor Bryant on Thursday but would not divulge details of that conversation.

Per Sanders, Paragon has agreed to extend Callaway and Olive Branch’s invitation deadline until Monday.

“I was told through sources that Mr. Hinton was going to sign off on it (a waiver to allow the teams to play despite the rule in place),” Sanders said. “I was told just to hold off and it’s starting to look like to me that was done on purpose to keep me from taking the proper steps and measures at that time and allow them (the MHSAA) to get close enough to the deadline to deny both teams from being able to go knowing we didn’t have time to do anything else.”

Hinton said a rule change was discussed earlier this year but not in an official capacity. However, if a waiver was presented by both schools asking for a temporary lift to the rule to allow Callaway and Olive Branch to participate in the tournament, it would be up to the MHSAA’s executive committee to decide.

“Certainly any of our schools can bring forward any type of proposal or waiver change but any change of policy or change in a rule would strictly be a board decision,” Hinton said.

Of note: In 2005, the MHSAA was going to allow postseason play when it sanctioned the ‘Dream Game II’ between Holly Springs and Lanier. The event was supposed to take place after the state championships that year but was canceled after Holly Springs superintendent Judy Smith decided to not allow the Hawks to participate.

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