You're not a coach, so how did you wind up being the Executive Director of an association of coaches?
"The Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) has a board of directors. When Doug Fowler, who has been the Executive Director for many years, decided to retire, they were going to have to replace them. Initially, they were going to replace him with another ex-coach but there's really no or very little coaching involved in this job. Somebody on the board was looking at what Georgia had done, so they decided to find somebody who had experience administrating an office.
"They called me and asked if I would be interested. I told them I would be willing to talk. Since I have two full time people in my office, that gives me some time to be able to do this job, which is really supposed to be a part time job anyway. We talked and I then decided to take the job."
Although I realize this is considered a part time job, how much time do you actually spend on it?
"Right now, with me being new, it's probably full time. I've been full time since January 1st because I'm still learning.
"As an example, while Doug Fowler wouldn't have had to come down here for the entire week, me being new, I came down (to Mobile, Alabama) with the (Mississippi high school all-star) players on Sunday. I've been down here all week. Next year, I can probably wait and come on a Thursday. This year, I wanted to be with the coaches and players so next year, when I get ready to make arrangements and have questions asked of me about the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game, I will know how to answer them."
How big of a deal is the game to the coaches and players in Mississippi?
"From all that I have been told, it is a big deal. I have been very impressed this week. Since I'm new at this, I'm very interested to see what the game is going to be like. As far as everything leading up to the game, the kids have been treated like prima donnas."
How do the coaches and players who are on the Mississippi team get selected?
"Every coach that is a member of our association can nominate their players. You have to be a member of the association to nominate a player. We will send out forms to every member of our association somewhere around January. The coaches will then send in their nominations. We will probably have four, five or six hundred nominations. Our football committee, which is selected by our board, selects the coaches for the game. Once we select our coaches; a head coach, six assistants, and a scouting coach, they, along with our football committee, select the players. We make sure the all-star coaches and the football committee include coaches that represent each district and each classification. If they don't, then we will do our best to find coaches that represent the districts or classifications that were not included. We do that so that all players throughout the state will have a chance to be selected. We also bring in some press that covers high school sports in Mississippi.
"Once we have everybody gathered together, we start the selection process. We know about the players that signed with the D-I schools. Just about all of those kids have a great shot of making the team. The coaches talk about each player, even the coaches that have played against the players. That's why we want to make sure that coaches from all the different areas are included. We want to make sure there is a coach that has seen every kid play. After we talk about them, the players are selected.
"After they are picked, we send them a form that they and their coach signs. If we don't receive a form back, we call the coach and find out why his player didn't send it back in. He will contact the kid and call me back explaining why he didn't send his form back. After we receive that information, I'll call the (Mississippi All-Star game) head coach and tell him that the kid is not playing and that he needs to pick a kid from his alternate list."
Have you guys thought about moving it back and forth between Mississippi and Alabama?
"That's a good question. That's one of the questions we discussed when I was hired in January. We have about 2,800 coaches in our association. We have a certain segment that would like to see it played in Jackson or somewhere in Mississippi. We have some that are perfectly happy with where the game is now played. What I thought I would do is come here, see what is going on for a year or two and see what they are offering us. My goal, as Executive Director, is to one day bring it to Mississippi. I think we deserve to have the game in Mississippi just as much as they do having it here. However, words are easy to say, but we have to have people who will sponsor and underwrite the game. Just like over here, they have Russell that is underwriting this game. The city of Mobile and Russell are the two underwriters of the ballgame. They also have numerous other people and companies that sponsor it on a smaller scale.
"Here are examples of why you have sponsors. When we drove here on Sunday, from the time we got off the bus, the kids and coaches didn't have to pay for anything, not a thing. They give them practice equipment to practice in, they give them shirts to wear every night for each event they go to, they give them memorabilia, watches, pictures, a place to stay, three meals a day, a snack at 10 o'clock at night, ice cream at night, they take them on tours. They sponsor everything. The association doesn't have to pay for anything. Plus, on top of that, they give the association a certain amount of money every year for us to come down here. Not only do they pay for everything, they pay us some money, so we have a large net from this game.
"So, for us to move the game to Mississippi, I am going to have to get out and see what (Mississippi and its companies) can do to match that. It's not something that we can do overnight. First, we have to find a place to play the game, then find a place to house the players and find sponsors. Over here, they have different sponsors every night to feed them. They have different restaurants they get their food from. Coca Cola gives them all the drinks they need. They have Cokes, Sprites and Power-ade in their dorm rooms. They have all the fruit they want. They have transportation for them for everywhere we go. The sponsors pay for the buses. Last night, they took them bowling. Tonight, they will pay for the movies the players go to.
"Getting back to what you asked, I would love to move it to Mississippi, but in order to get back there, I have to find people who are willing to sponsor the event like they do here. It's going to take money to do that. Hopefully, I can find everything we need."
Not only have people wondered about moving the game to Mississippi every other year, but they have also wondered about moving it to a time closer to the football season. Have you guys discussed that?
"That is one of the things that they are talking about. They mentioned doing it a week or two after the play off games because the players are still in football shape. I really think that will bring more interest, because people will want to see the players their coaches are recruiting."
Thanks for talking to me, Johnny.
"Thanks, Gene. I enjoyed it."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.