When the junior college presidents of Mississippi decided late Tuesday that they were eliminating the protected recruiting list for all sports, getting rid of the current athletic districts and greatly reducing the amount of scholarships for out-of-state players, they all but killed junior college athletics in this state.
Some may think I’m overreacting with that statement but there hasn’t been a single college or high school coach that I’ve talked to from our area that either understands the decision or agrees with the decision. Everyone is scratching their heads on this one.
Eliminating district lines is bad for our local athletes, our kids that attend Lafayette, Oxford and Water Valley. Instead of them being protected by Northwest Mississippi Community College football coach Ricky Woods and his staff, 13 other schools can contact LHS coach Anthony Hart, OHS coach Johnny Hill and WVHS coach Brad Embry about signing their athletes. They can do it now, during the regular high school season and at different times of the day when these coaches are trying to prepare for a regular season or playoff game. Our area players, who have been used to dealing with one set of coaches until they aren’t protected, are likely going to be fielding calls from 10 to 13 other different coaches that are trying to get them to play at schools such as Jones, Gulf Coast and Pearl River.
We have too many good athletes in this area for that not to happen. I promise this will be a greater distraction to the kids and more pressure than they already have and don’t need. LHS quarterback Jeremy Liggins is already being courted by every SEC West school; he doesn’t need another 13 JC coaches calling him and recruiting him and wasting his time knowing he won’t be headed to Scooba or Decatur to play.
What strikes me as odd about this entire decision was high school coaches I talked to were not consulted about it. Another source said this came out of left field, late in the meeting Tuesday held in Jackson. There has been talk in the past of reducing scholarships for non-Mississippi residents and a few other things, but this was a drastic move, a damaging move that many of the coaches I talked to thought would kill football and other sports.
I know how good, how competitive junior college sports are in the state because of our high school athletes I keep up with once they elevate to that level.
Watering down league
Mississippi’s football league is the most competitive in the nation. Five teams are currently ranked in the Top 20 of the NJCAA poll. For a state that is often criticized nationally for various amount of reasons, that’s something to be proud of and a big reason for it is our tax dollars. Eliminating districts, boundaries that have been there for years and help make these schools a real part of the community, will end that type of positive exposure in the future if this proposal sticks.
As talented as our Mississippi players are, one of the big reasons why the product is so good on Thursday nights is because of out-of state-players who are either placed by four-year schools or recruited there by JUCO coaches. Two weeks ago when East Mississippi played at NWCC, Ole Miss assistants James Shibest and Terry Price were walking the sidelines. They were there to evaluate EMCC’s Denico Autry, a native of North Carolina, and in the process they got to see other top players that were from other states as well as Mississippi. That type of exposure and contact for our kids diminishes if you cut the scholarship limit in half.
Ole Miss and MSU have routinely signed players from the state. The Rebels’ Randall Mackey, Jamal Mosley, Damien Jackson and Wayne Dorsey all played JUCO football in Mississippi and all four are from other states. Reduce the scholarships and these players, who are from bordering states in most cases, are off to other places to play, essentially hurting if not completely destroying the competitive product that we know.
Oklahoma State coaches are flying in to evaluate NWCC quarterback Ryan Mossakowski tonight when the Rangers host NECC. Mossakowski is a native of Frisco, Texas, and was formerly at Kentucky. He chose NWCC because of his relationship with Woods, a native of Ackerman, and Jack Wright, whose father helped start the monster known as South Panola. Mossakowski being on the roster has kept the Rangers ranked in the top 10 this year and it helps bring exposure to our area players such as former Oxford right guard Terry Johnson, who will play for a four-year school as well one day. It’s very unlikely Mossakowski is in Senatobia if the scholarships are reduced. Coaches more than likely will use those on defensive players in order to stay competitive and thus the product, the excitement of the games will suffer.
Another reason not to like this proposal and decision is the cost. The recruiting budgets are about to go through the roof and who is going to pay for it? You guessed it, us, the taxpayers.
There are no private giving foundations in junior college. It all comes from taxpayers and here in Lafayette County, we’re paying 3percent of our property taxes to Northwest. It’s funny how presidents can just make decisions like this that are contingent on our money without any consultation isn’t it? Sounds like another national group we all don’t trust if you ask me.
Coaches from all over the state will be clamoring for kids and that means greater costs on travel. Opening up the state also means schools like Coahoma, Delta, Southwest and East Central are through. Kids don’t want to live in Clarksdale or Decatur or Moorhead. They want to play for NWCC, Gulf Coast and Pearl River. The rest of the schools will be in some sort of middle ground I predict while the most desolate and least competitive schools are going to get worse.
The future appears to be bleak for our junior college athletics, but this proposal doesn’t have to stick. It can be changed with some public outcry. The presidents need to know that this was not well thought out even if they beg to differ. It was unnecessary work done to an engine that was running down the road just fine. (September 29, 2011, Page 7)