Revisiting the “Road Miles” Debate – State Championship Locations

For the first time in 21-years, the Mississippi High School Football State Championships will not be played at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, MS as the MHSAA decided to move the games to Oxford and Starkville on rotating years.

These games will now be played, starting next week at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville and at Vaught Hemmingway in Oxford next season.  By now this should be common knowledge but if you missed that announcement, you can read all about it right here.

Much was to do about facilities, game day experience and more that can be offered on the campuses of the two SEC institutions in this state – after all, other states have been doing this for a while now.

The one drawback or potential red flag to this move though was travel distance for teams and their fans.

People all over the state started questioning travel distance from around the state, to the new locations and comparing those drives to previous drives to Jackson – and rightfully so.

At first glance of a map, Jackson is basically the center of the state, almost equal distance from one end to the other – or is it?

Trust me I get the concerns when you talk about gas, food, lodging, time and more, but after further evaluation – I think what we are seeing is yes the venue has shifted north of Jackson, but for better facilities, amenities, parking and a big time college feel to the game – travel doesn’t change all that much in the grand scheme of things.

We took the 24-finalists in 1-6A, who will be playing Friday night and did mileage checks on their respective schools and towns to Jackson and then Starkville.  Yes Oxford will move the needle some, but for now let’s focus on this year.

What we found for this year is of the 24-schools still left in the playoffs, there is basically very little change in travel as to what it would have been in Jackson.

Eleven schools this year would have a further distance to travel to Jackson than Starkville – while 13-schools have a further trip to Starkville than if the games where at Veterans Memorial.

That’s a two school swing in the grand scheme of things when you break it down.

You have to start with the location and surrounding schools first.  Yes it will affect those schools drastically.  Take Brandon and Pearl for instance.  Those schools only have a 14 and seven mile hike to Veterans Memorial Stadium, but if they make the championship this year, that trip increases to 120 and 125-miles respectfully.

But, the same can be said for schools like Starkville, East Webster, and a few others.  What use to be an annual long trip to Jackson now becomes a shorter trip.

Based on the remaining teams for this year we have basically flipped the script for most teams.  If you use to travel far, now you travel “not so far” and vice versa.

Of course there are a few schools that are the “odd man out”, but that’s always going to be the case.  Oxford traveled 172-miles to Jackson last year and would have to do the same this year if the game were not in Starkville, where they now travel 100-miles.

St. Stanislaus would have traveled 170-miles to Jackson, but has the furthest trip should they make it – 266-miles to Starkville.

For teams like Charleston, Greenwood, Laurel and others, those mileages depending on the route you take, vary very little.

Cathedral in Natchez, MS would have the biggest jump in travel should they make it, when talking about location change.  They would have had to travel 116-miles to Jackson, but now would have to travel 242-miles to Starkville; which is an increase of about 2-hours in travel.

But, again after breaking it down, while location does affect some teams, for the majority, only the roles reverse.

But – for the atmosphere, big time SEC football stadiums, new restaurants and everything the college towns have to offer, I think you will find that extra hour or so in the car is well worth it.

Below is a chart showing the 24-schools playing this Friday night and their travel to Jackson (old championship location) verses Starkville (the 2014 state championship destination), should they reach the State Championship in their classification.