Montgomery’s motto as the “Capital of Dreams” is quickly turning into a nightmare, at least from a sports perspective.
The Alabama-Mississippi All Star Football Classic is the latest in a series of high school sporting events that have pulled out of the Capital City, creating a less-than-flattering image of a city that is struggling to remain relevant.
Alabama High School Athletic Association executive director Alvin Briggs announced on Tuesday the high school event that features some of the top high school recruits in the nation is heading back to Mobile, where it was played from 1988 until 2010 when Montgomery officials were able to lure the event away with the promise of a refurbished Cramton Bowl.
“We think taking the Alabama-Mississippi All Star Classic back to Mobile is a huge opportunity,” Briggs said. “The Alabama-Mississippi Classic got its start at Mobile in 1988. Mobile’s civic leaders and the high school coaching community have been instrumental to the success of this great game from that beginning and helped make it what we think is the finest high school all-star football game in the nation. We are extremely grateful to the University of South Alabama, the Mobile Sports Authority, and Mobile’s city and county leaders for providing the AHSAA the opportunity to return to the place where the Alabama-Mississippi Classic got its start four decades ago. We also thank the City of Montgomery and Cramton Bowl for being a gracious host since 2011.”
The event is the fifth — and certainly not the last — high school event to pull out of the Capital City in the last two years.
The Alabama All-Stars Sports Week football game, the initial event in the renovated Cramton Bowl in 2011, left in 2020 as the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association, which oversees the event, moved the game to Mobile after moving it from July to December, creating a scheduling conflict with the Alabama-Mississippi game and the Camellia Bowl, which were held on consecutive weekends in December.
The Camellia Bowl has since moved to Christmas Day, avoiding the scheduling conflict.
Since then, four more high school events have moved from the Capital City as city officials appear to be less focused on hosting the events and the economic impact such events deliver.
In 2021, the Alabama High School Athletic Association state softball championships moved from Montgomery’s Lagoon Park, the only home it has ever known, and moved to Oxford after city officials declined to make upgrades to the aging facility that had been requested for several years.
The event had originated at Lagoon Park since 1986, including the switch from slow pitch softball to fast pitch beginning in 1995. It moved to Oxford in 2021.
This year will mark the first time since the AHSAA baseball championships were consolidated in 2001 that they will not be held in the Capital City. They were held initially at Paterson Field and Auburn University Montgomery, then split between Paterson Field and Riverwalk Stadium when the latter facility opened in 2004.
City officials have neglected to make any upgrades to Paterson Field. In addition, the lure of playing the baseball championships in Montgomery was the nearby attraction of the softball championships. Now that softball has moved to Oxford, baseball will follow suit next month.
The city also lost the Southeastern Commission of Independent Schools’ Kickoff Classic, a collection of six games over two days representing four Southeastern states that had been playing in Cramton Bowl since its inception in 2016. The lack of interest from city leaders sent SECIS organizers looking for another location and this fall it will be played at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Ga.
Now you can add the Alabama-Mississippi All Star Football Classic to the list. Long considered one of the premier football events in the state, it was moved from June to December several years ago to maintain its roster of players that were entering college in the first week of June.
Football fans in the Capital City were treated to one of the best games in the history of the series in its Montgomery debut, featuring quarterback Jameis Winston, running back T.J. Yeldon and linebacker Reggie Ragland. The event was held at Cramton Bowl every year from 2011-14, featuring players such as ArDarius Stewart, Jeremy Johnson, Marlon Humphrey, Rashaan Evans, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Kerryon Johnson, Anfernee Jennings and Daron Payne.
It alternated between Montgomery and Hattiesburg, Miss., between 2015 and 2021, playing in Montgomery in even-numbered years with high-profile players such as K.J. Britt, Kendall Randolph, Amari Kight, Bo Nix, George Pickens, Will Reichard, Kool Aid McKinstry, Anquin Barnes and Deontae Lawson.
Danny Corte of the Mobile Sports Authority said the event belonged in Mobile and received a lot of credit from high school officials for his determination in luring the event away from Montgomery.
“We at the Mobile Sports Authority are excited the Alabama-Mississippi High School All-Star Football Game will be coming home this December and beyond,” Corte said. “With the roots of this game going back to 1988 in Mobile, we’re fired up the game is returning to our area. I want to thank Mr. Briggs and the Alabama High School Athletic Association for the confidence they’ve shown in us to host one of their signature annual events.”