HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - A typical Biloxi weekend in late-march features the echoes of baseballs being hit and fans cheering.
Instead of hosting the Conference USA baseball tournament for the fourth straight season, MGM Park - home of the Biloxi Shuckers - sits silent.
Not only did Southern Miss hope to defend its C-USA crown this Memorial Day Weekend, Overtime Sports looked to cash in on its most successful week of the year.
“We classify that as the largest sporting event to take place on the Coast, in part because of the attendance,” said Tim Bennett, owner of Overtime Sports. “But even more than that, the fact that it’s nationally televised.”
Fourteen of the C-USA’s games are televised on ESPN and the championship is featured nationally on CBS Sports.
Bennett said they are looking at a potential ten to 12 million dollar deficit without the conference tournament. Overtime sports expects to lose between five and six million dollars in absence of its next major event – the Southwestern Athletic Conference baseball tournament.
For the first time, the SWAC Tournament was headed to Smith Wills Stadium in Jackson from May 13-17 before the Coronavirus pandemic brought all plans to a halt.
It was especially exciting for the conference to host a tournament within 100 miles of three member schools – Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State.
“Your local impact is somewhat higher with the SWAC tournament than it is with Conference USA,” Bennett said. “I would say combined, probably lost some 20 million dollars in economic impact by losing those two tournaments this year.”
In addition to the two conference tournaments, Overtime Sports had over 100 events planned for Smith Wills Stadium including ten C-USA weekend series, games with Belhaven, Tougaloo and Jackson public high schools.
The SWAC’s original February agreement with KSG-Overtime Sports slated the conference tournament to run through the 2021-22 baseball seasons.
Bennett is currently in negotiations with both the SWAC and Conference USA to keep those tournaments in Mississippi next year.
“[It’s] a significant blow for sports, especially given that both of these are NCAA sanctioned and televised tournaments,” Bennett said. “We lost a lot of important games, a lot of revenue for the state and the city. We’re still fighting and hopefully we’ll get a shot at all of this next year if we can get the virus behind us.”