Cathedral fans upset with MHSAA

Published 12:04 am Thursday, June 18, 2015

NATCHEZ — After the Mississippi High School Athletic Association voted Thursday in favor of making all out-of- state students ineligible in all sports next season, local residents have begun expressing major concern.

“I was shocked,” said Brent Smith, who has two daughters that attend Cathedral High School. “We are a Catholic family, and my daughters have been going to school there since they were 3. We wouldn’t go to school anywhere else.”

But for Smith’s daughters to continue playing, they may be forced to move to Mississippi or attend a school in Louisiana, where they reside.

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“Somebody once told me the Mississippi River is one mile wide,” Smith said. “And you can’t tell me that one mile makes a difference in these kids. This is unnecessary.”

The mile, though, made all the difference to the MHSAA.

“It is becoming more and more common for students that live on the edges of states that border us to come to school and play sports over here,” MHSAA associate director Rickey Neaves said. “It is against state law for public schools to enroll these kids, but if they do, they are ineligible.”

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton denied that Cathedral’s success was the catalyst for this week’s decision. He said there have been discussions about the issue for two years, and the Cathedral situation was one of many around the state that led to this week’s ruling.

“We had situations in Desoto County, with students from Memphis and from Arkansas. We had a student from Alabama who was trying to go to Meridian, and some from Louisiana at schools down on the coast,” Hinton said.

Neaves said the board looked at a potential grandfathering option, but decided against it.

“The only grandfathering that was discussed was this coming year’s seniors, but we decided to go with the rule,” Neaves said. “That is for all schools associated with us, public, private and parochial.”

For Christi Rabb and her son Pate Shirley, a rising senior at Cathedral, the issue has become a frustrating one.

“I think it is sad for these kids,” Rabb said. “Pate has been at Cathedral since the eighth grade, and there are others that have been there since preschool and played sports the whole time. They haven’t done anything wrong, and they don’t understand why this is an issue.”

Both Rabb and Smith said they plan on appealing or fighting the ruling in the near future.

“We will definitely appeal the situation and as of now, Pate will play baseball for the Green Wave and graduate from there,” Rabb said.

Smith was also enthusiastic about an appeal.

“I’ll fight it until the bitter end,” he said. “To affect us like this, I don’t understand it. It is a shame we win a state championship and everyone makes a big fuss.”

Cathedral had three football team members from Louisiana on last year’s state championship team, while the state championship baseball team had two members from across the Mississippi River.