Louisville opts out of football contract with SHS
Starkville football coach Jamie Mitchell gives his team direction during a game last season. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
The Starkville High School football schedule will take on a different look next season and not all of it has to do with Mississippi High School Activities Association reclassification.
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After dropping down to Class 5A, the Yellowjackets knew they had to fit Region 2 opponents Lanier, Provine, Ridgeland, Canton, Yazoo City, Callaway and Neshoba Central onto the schedule.
What Starkville didn't expect to happen was having to find a replacement for Louisville.
The Jackets were looking forward to renewing their contract with the Wildcats of Winston County and keep a long-standing rivalry going, but a situation arose in the last couple of weeks that caused Louisville to back out of a verbal agreement to do so.
After returning from the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic where he watched quarterback Jaquez Johnson play, Starkville football coach Jamie Mitchell received a call from coach M.C. Miller of the Wildcats. Miller expressed his desire to pull out of the contract.
SHS Athletic Director Stan Miller had already finalized the schedule for the 2011 season and was ready to mail it out before finding out that M.C. Miller didn't want to renew the series.
The reason M.C. Miller gave Mitchell and Stan Miller for Louisville not wanting to play was it was offered the same opportunity as the Jackets to play in a Classic game in Birmingham. Starkville chose not to play in the game because of its commitment to Louisville, but the Wildcats didn't hold to its end of the bargain and opted to play in the Classic.
After initial conversations between Mitchell and M.C. Miller that there was a possibility the schools wouldn't play each other next season, it took Mitchell to call M.C. Miller back to find out Louisville had in fact decided to back out of the contract.
"I want our folks to know that we pushed to play, had an agreement to play and they back out on us," Mitchell said. "We're certainly disappointed that Louisville did that. When I tell someone I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it, and that was our agreement, especially when it has been going on for so long."
Stan Miller called his friend and LHS superintendent Billy Wade to see if the series could be salvaged, but to no avail.
"We go back a long way," Stan Miller said of his relationship with Wade. "Billy called me back the next day and basically said he's got to go along with his coach on this one. I asked him, 'Billy, you understand the ramifications of this decision? The Starkville community and Louisville community have always looked to this rivalry game.' He understood it and said that if his coach wants to do this, then that's what we're going to do."
The common thought has the Starkville-Louisville series dating back some 50 years and maybe even farther than that.
"I was talking with our baseball coach Danny Carlisle and he tells me as long as he's been here, Starkville and Louisville have played," Mitchell said. "We had an agreement to play and I talked with coach Miller about two weeks ago and everything was a gentlemen's agreement."
Mitchell had a difficult time comprehending why the Wildcats would rather drive to Birmingham to play in a Classic game than travel 30 miles up the road to play a rivalry contest that would certainly draw a crowd.
"How can you justify that when you are considering economics and things like that?" Mitchell said.
When contacted by the Starkville Daily News on Wednesday, M.C. Miller appeared to sound like a man who tried to find a way to keep the Jackets on the schedule.
"I hate it too," M.C. Miller said. "We tried to move it around, but just couldn't get it moved around."
When the realization hit in the Starkville camp that there was no way to salvage the Louisville series, Stan Miller said Mitchell worked the phone and internet to find a replacement.
"We were lucky that Madison Central had that open," Stan Miller said. "We were also lucky that (Bobby Hall) would come up here because we wanted to have a balance schedule there.
"We're very pleased with our schedule and Madison Central will be a great game, but I want to tell the people of Starkville and the people of Louisville that we are very disappointed," Stan Miller said. "This is a two-year contract so we won't be able to play Louisville the next two years. We will try to renew that rivalry three years from now and hopefully get that rivalry going again."