Public And Private Schools To Compete

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A new deal will allow 31 private schools to compete against Mississippi public schools in sporting events for the first time beginning this fall. The Mississippi Private School Association ratified the deal Thursday. Three months ago, the MPSA blocked a plan that would have allowed Jackson Prep to play public schools for a two-year trial period. The new plan allows 31 of the MPSA's approximately 100 member schools to play public schools. ``It's on. This is the start of something good, something that will open some doors,'' said Ennis Proctor, executive director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association, the governing body for public school sports. ``This is something we've been working toward and waiting for. I know the MPSA had to look carefully at it before reaching an agreement, but I'm glad they did. It's very big news,'' Proctor said. MPSA executive director David Derrick and director of activities Les Triplett had no immediate comment on the decision. ``I think there are a ton of people in the private and publics in the education business that are tired of having a fence where you have to be on one side or the other,'' said Brandon athletic director Dan Davis. Davis said he would like to talk with Jackson Prep, Madison-Ridgeland Academy and others about playing in several sports.

The decision is a historic one for the separate school organizations and in Mississippi race relations. No black students played on any MPSA boys high school sports team until 1987. For years, the MHSAA barred its members _ predominantly public and parochial schools _ from playing MPSA schools. As MPSA schools became increasingly desegregated, MHSAA attitudes began to change. Proctor said members of his organization will be allowed to play MPSA schools that meet accreditation standards set by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools or the state. The MPSA's nine largest schools are among the 31 that meet those requirements. The first head-to-head athletic event between MPSA and MHSAA schools might be cross-country meets in August or an Aug. 31 football game between the MPSA's Jackson Prep and the MHSAA's George County.