County and state school officials confirmed Tuesday that the athletics programs at both West and East Oktibbeha county high schools are now ineligible for out-of-conference play, including playoffs, because of the school district's recent accreditation loss.
Patrice Guilfoyle, Mississippi Department of Education communications director, said the Mississippi Commission on School Accreditation withdrew the Oktibbeha County School District's accreditation during a specially called meeting Oct. 23. MDE began taking over the district when Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in the district Sept. 28., and while the accreditation loss did not immediately follow, Guilfoyle said it was expected.
"(Accreditation loss) is typically what happens when the state takes over a district," Guilfoyle said. "It's just that the commission withdrew it in this special meeting just to be clear, because there have been some questions regarding it."
OCSD conservator Jayne Sargent said the accreditation loss prevents both the WOCHS and EOCHS athletic programs from participating in playoffs or any other non-conference play. The decision took effect immediately, she said, and she received notice by phone Thursday.
"That means any football games they have that are conference games, they can (still) play," Sargent said. "That's the same thing with basketball ... that's the same thing with track; that's the same thing with every competitive sport."
The West Oktibbeha Timberwolves had qualified for the playoffs because of their 6-1 record in Class A, Region 3, District 4. West Oktibbeha, which closes the regular season at Pelahatchie Friday night, has an 8-2 overall mark.
West Oktibbeha football coach Adam Lowrey said it is his understanding right now that the Timberwolves will not be participating in the playoffs, but there is an appeal process underway.
The East Oktibbeha Titans have struggled to a 2-8 overall and 1-6 Class A, Region 3, District 4 records. The Titans host senior night against Weir on Friday.
West Oktibbeha and East Oktibbeha were set to begin the basketball seasons next week.
East Oktibbeha coach Ray Brooks did not comment on the status of athletics with his program, but he did say, "We're planning on having senior night Friday night."
Sports editor Danny P. Smith contributed to this report.