The MHSAA State Football Championships will return to Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in JXN in December.
The 2020 Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Gridiron Classic is scheduled for Thursday, December 3 and Friday, December 4 at the historic 60,000-seat venue that hosted MHSAA football finals from 1992 through 2013.
“We are excited about the opportunity to return the Gridiron Classic to a place with such a storied history in Mississippi,” MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said. “There have been so many great moments and memories for our schools over the years at Memorial Stadium.”
“This has been and continues to be a challenging year for all of us due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s no different for our schools and communities in Mississippi as together we all try to navigate unprecedented circumstances.”
The Gridiron Classic rotated among Mississippi State University (2014, 2016), the University of Mississippi (2015, 2017) and the University of Southern Mississippi (2018, 2019) for the past six years. MSU had been slated to host this year’s games prior to COVID-19.
MSU now has a home game on December 5 after reworking its football schedule, which could be subject to further changes and delays as the season progresses. University of Mississippi and USM face similar scheduling challenges.
“Our universities in Mississippi are dealing with many of the same issues as our public and parochial schools,” Hinton said. “Their football games and athletic events are under attendance limitations just as with MHSAA schools. Colleges are restricting tailgating for students, alumni and fans. Understandably, administrators are doing their best to avoid hosting any additional events on campus — especially those that would bring crowds.
“Memorial Stadium offers a unique option because the stadium’s capacity is large enough to accommodate everyone who wants to attend the Gridiron Classic under the current attendance restictions. Yet these games won’t be played on a college campus and won’t create any challenges or issues for staff and students and day-to-day operations at Jackson State.
“We are grateful to Jackson State University President Thomas K. Hudson, Vice-President and Athletic Director Ashley Robinson, Associate Athletic Director Derek Scott and the entire university administration for their willingness and dedication to host the MHSAA State Championships. We have a tremendous relationship with Jackson State. They’ve hosted the quarterfinals of our State Basketball Championships for four years and it’s been first-class in every way.
“Our MHSAA Executive Committee — which is made up of school administrators from across the state — was unanimous in its approval of moving this year’s games to Memorial Stadium. We also hope moving the games to Thursday and Friday for this particular year will avoid any overlap with Mississippi’s college teams and their Saturday game schedules.”
Robinson said JSU was glad to be involved with this year’s football championships. The Tigers have played home football games since 1970 at Memorial Stadium, which is about 3 miles north of the university’s campus. Kickoff for the Tigers’ 2020 season was delayed from September to February 2021 due to COVID-19.
“We are happy to welcome MHSAA back to Veterans Memorial Stadium,” said Hudson, acting president of JSU. “Jackson State appreciates this partnership and hopes it continues into the future.”
“We are very excited to welcome back the MHSAA State Football Championships back to Jackson and Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium,” Robinson said. “There is a long and storied tradition of playing the State Championships in Jackson and we are very excited to once again serve as a partner for this event.”