SP unrest

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Good leadership, common sense must prevail at South Panola

There’s unrest at South Panola High School—and egos may tear down what our community has enjoyed for several decades and beat a team that has been virtually unbeatable.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster for the past couple of weeks, first with news of offensive coordinator Trey Dickerson leaving to coach Hattiesburg High, followed last Wednesday by the announcement of the largest college scholarship signing class ever at the University of South Panola.

We don’t know details of the friction apparently surrounding the football program, but undercurrents have been swirling for some time. There appears a disconnect, whether it’s insubordination, lack of communication or whatever, between administration and football coaching staff.

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That the problem has reached the public already says something. Usually personnel matters of this nature are handled administratively with the results appearing in the form of  contracts or non-renewal in the spring. The public seldom gets involved.

But this is South Panola and the subject is football. And that makes it different.

Unfortunately, a few of the Tigers’ most visible players of the past had difficulty with college entrance or maintaining minimum required grades once enrolled. That led to opposing fans on the blogosphere and the viral media making light of the team’s intellect by stereotyping all as mentally incapable—a stigma that no administrator or coach wants put on his team or students.

And all with a grain of common sense know that high school football is no end-all to cure all. But football is us. It is who we are. It is what we do and what we do well.

In our community, more than most, football is bigger than a game. The program has provided opportunities for hundreds of students to attend college. There is not enough money in all of Panola County to buy an advertising campaign that would have brought the name recognition that the program has to South Panola and the Batesville community. That qualifies the game as an economic asset.

When we speak of the team, it is not “they” and “us.” We don’t think Baptists or Methodists, black or white, rich or poor, hillbillies or flatlanders. Nothing has brought the people of this community together consistently like the successful football program at South Panola.

And that support spills over in other areas of education. People who don’t have any association with the school care about South Panola because they were attracted there by a successful football program who wouldn’t lose.

If football is getting in the way of education at South Panola, it needs fixing.

If the football program is causing non-players to be deprived of having opportunities, then that should be fixed, too.

In doing so, don’t forget to count the hundreds of young boys who aspire to be team members or the hundreds of former team members who have done their time and gone about their lives having learned to work hard to achieve a cherished goal.

Hopefully good leadership and common sense will prevail and these issues can be worked out.

This program is bigger than any of us. And while most all are concerned, loose tongues and idle gossip only compound problems.

Good leaders learn to compromise, work out differences and move forward.