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The Union County School District will give it a go at one more year of keeping its football program county-wide, as decided by a split vote by its Board of Trustees Monday night.
The board voted 3-2 in favor of remaining a county-wide program in order to give a final push at recruitment from three of the four county schools.
Board President Terry Cook, who cast the deciding vote, said he would go along with keeping the co-op program for at least one more year because of alleged renewed interest from students at Ingomar.
According to a fellow board member Buddy Dixon, he was shown a list of 54 students who will be in the 6th through 12th grades next year that have expressed an interest in playing football.
“I’m willing to give it one more year,” Cook said. “If we have this interest at Ingomar and we give it one final push at recruiting students from Ingomar, West Union and Myrtle, then I think we should try it.”
Currently, East Union has the greatest amount of participation with 40 to 60 students expressing desire to play, while interest at the other schools had declined from the program’s first year.
The board had come together to vote on a recommendation from Union County School District Superintendent Ken Basil that, because of economics, lack of participation from three of the county schools and concern for safety of the students involved, the program be restricted to East Union Attendance Center.
“I certainly don’t want to recommend this, but I feel I need to do so because of these reasons,” Basil told the board. “I will certainly support any decision the board makes.”
The program, which was brought into existence with the aid of the Mississippi High School Athletics Association two years ago, has allowed students from all four schools to play on the football team, with the stipulation that two years from now, the program would receive a 5A classification, based on the district’s total number of students. Should it be classified as 5A, then the team could be placed in divisions with Oxford, West Point and other 5A schools.
Board members Wayne Mahon and Mickey Basil, who voted against keeping the program county-wide, said the 5A classification could endanger the safety of the players.
“They’ll be playing kids a lot bigger than them,” Basil said. “I just worry that we could have a lot of injuries because our kids are just now learning the game.”
“We’re endangering these kids’ lives if we put them out on a field with big schools like Oxford,” Mahon said.
Dixon and board member Johnny Rakestraw, however, felt that moving the program to East Union would go against the vision and mission of the school district to give every male student an equal opportunity to play the game.
“I think moving football to East Union is detrimental to our vision for the future,” Rakestraw said. “We can’t base the future on what is happening right now. I think we need to give it more time, find out why participation at the three schools is so low and do something to fix it. I can’t believe that none of the boys at those schools wants to play football.”
“I would ask for just one more year to try it and make one more big push to promote football at the other schools,” Dixon. “That’s the vision we had and we can’t give up on it yet.”
Before casting his vote, Cook made one final stipulation.
“The only way I’ll vote to give it one more year is, if we still don’t get the participation we’re looking for from Myrtle, West Union or Ingomar, then we go ahead and move football to East Union the following year,” Cook said.