It’s Official: Making amends for Bailey, Tony

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2005

Sometimes the details of a story aren’t really important, but my article last week about Mississippi State basketball’s early foray into integrated competition contained a factual error or two.

I’ll make my excuse by admitting that being of an age when hearing conversations while amidst a crowd is very difficult, if not impossible.

Last week during the mid-day break at the Fortunato Golf Classic, I had my conversation with Bailey Howell and Tony Byrne, so I missed some detail.

Email newsletter signup

The tournament State was scheduled to play for the championship was in Evanston, not Denver. The opponent was to have been the University of Denver, which had black players.

Also, Bailey was only a year behind Tony, not two years as I stated. My apologies to those MSU Bulldog fans who have an encyclopedic knowledge of MSU sports history.

I have a close friend in Knoxville, Tenn., with whom I grew up who has that kind of sports memory about the Tennessee Vols. We were both close friends with General Bob Neyland’s sons growing up, and we graduated from high school with the older of the two boys, so we vitally developed an enthusiastic interest in Tennessee sports from a very early age.

My friend can recall probably every scoring play by and against Tennessee’s football teams since the late 1930s, when we followed stars as George Cafego and Johnny Butler.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. My mom has been gone for almost 15 years, but I still remember she became a knowledgeable sports fan. Though she came from a non-athletic family (they did hunt and fish), it wasn’t until she and my father, with 3-year old me in tow, moved to Knoxville that she even saw a football game.

She joined my dad as an avid Vol football fan, enjoying not only the pageantry of the college game but the finer points as well. After moving to Natchez without a local college team to follow, she became a fan of high school sports and even became a fan of my officiating.

As time passed, my mom had actually become a decent golfer, and had always enjoyed fishing. She was very good at preparing the game and fish my dad would bring in the house.

Not all mothers (or women) are so tolerant. I’ve been blessed with three: my mother, an athletic first wife and a now interested wife who has become quite adept at distinguishing a good call from a bad call.

The MHSAA is considering a rule which would require an athlete to play either for the high school or the select team in season but not both.

It appears high school coaches would approve of the change, but many select team players (particularly soccer) are saying they would give up the high school team because of the added exposure of a travel team.

Young high school track stars, like Natchez High’s Janice Davis a couple of years ago, participate in sponsored meets all summer. I can see a future when those meets will encroach on the high school season, particularly in indoor track.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at