Report: Rivalry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2006




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NATCHEZ &8212; An official with the MPSA deemed the Adams Christian and Trinity Episcopal rivalry a hostile environment following an investigation, Adams Christian assistant coach Rusty McPhate said Wednesday.

MPSA officials authorized an investigation following eligibility proceedings of a student-athlete who transferred between the two schools prior to the start of the 2004 season. The letter was one reason Adams Christian officials would not request a game with Trinity Episcopal for the 2006 season.

McPhate, who is resigning from Adams Christian at the end of the school year, said he presented a contract for both schools to sign that would lock the series in each year for 11 years but was turned down by board members at ACCS.

&8220;Trinity was my No. 1 choice,&8221; McPhate said. &8220;I was told by our administration that we couldn&8217;t request that game because of an incident in the past. There are powers at AC that are more powerful than me. I don&8217;t make the decision. (Trinity head coach) David King knows how bad I wanted this game. We did everything we could to make it work.&8221;

Parklane headmaster Billy Swindle issued a report in August 2004 and sent it to both schools. In an e-mail obtained by The Natchez Democrat, Swindle found the student&8217;s transfer valid and issued a recommendation to both issued a recommendation to both schools.

&8220;Also, a hostile environment exists between the two schools because of this and several past incidents,&8221; Swindle wrote. &8220;I strongly recommend that the administration at both schools do their very best to neutralize that hostility as best they can.&8221;

Still, coaches at Trinity Episcopal were led to believe they would play Adams Christian to open this season despite only Trinity making the request for the game. Instead, the Saints will travel to Newton County Academy to open the season.

King, who initially declined comment when the schedule was released Tuesday, said since Swindle&8217;s recommendation the two schools have played twice in football and several times in basketball and other sports.

&8220;There had not been any incident at all,&8221; King said. &8220;I am a proud ACCS graduate, and I want nothing but good for Adams Christian. And that is the truth.&8221;

The two schools, however, couldn&8217;t set up a date this past basketball season. When both schools released their schedules in late October, Trinity&8217;s schedule had a Nov. 15 date at Adams Christian. But Adams Christian&8217;s schedule didn&8217;t have the game scheduled.

The two schools met up in the playoffs in girls&8217; basketball, and both games were in front of packed gyms &8212; ones where the gates were shared with the host schools and others playing that day.

Trinity and Adams Christian, however, have agreed to play home and home in baskeball, AC headmaster John R. Gray said. The first game will be Dec. 21 at Trinity and Jan. 25 at ACCS.

McPhate, however, argued that the only way to subdue the hostile environment is to continue the series.

&8220;I told him it shouldn&8217;t be,&8221; he said. &8220;It shouldn&8217;t have anything to do with adults. I understand why Coach King is upset &8212; not only for not playing us but for having to go to Newton.&8221;

McPhate said he presented a contract to coaching staffs at both schools before presenting it to school officials. Had it been signed, the contract would call for the two schools to play each other in football, basketball, track, baseball, softball, tennis and golf each year until the 2016-2017 school term.

It also contained language guaranteeing a junior high football game at the annual jamboree and during the regular season. Both coaches had planned to hold a press conference announcing the agreement.

ACCS officials, McPhate said, declined to sign it, citing no other contract exists with any other school on the schedule.

&8220;This contract was my idea,&8221; he said. &8220;If anybody is to blame, you can blame me. If you want to do away with a hostile environment, play.&8221;

Both coaches said the news of the game not being played this fall was discouraging for the players returning in the fall. The two schools have agreed to play a junior high football game Aug. 22 at Trinity.

The 2006 football schedule is also a one-year document &8212; not the customary two-year plan.

&8220;I am actually worn out about this saga about ACCS and Trinity playing ball,&8221; King said. &8220;I am just wiping my hands of it. I have called every year trying to play everything. I can just assure you of this &8212; David King will play Ricky Woods at South Panola if he called and wanted to play me, and I&8217;d play Thomas Billips at Lanier. I&8217;ll play anybody.&8221;

&8220;I&8217;m glad to know that the basketball rivalry is still going on after the hiatus last year. My kids want to play them. We&8217;re going to be the underdog in the football game, but we like those odds.&8221;