My first trip to The Big House came after I moved to Fulton in the late 1980s.
Coming over from Alabama, I had to question folks when I heard the phrase, "Going to The Big House."
What is The Big House?
Come to find out it was another name, a more popular name in high school basketball circles, for Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
I've made many, many trips to The Big House since that first trip.
In those initial years in Mississippi, I drove south on the Natchez Trace.
Since moving to Holly Springs in 2001, my route has changed, traveling south on I55. And it has been a route often traveled in late February and/or early March since my arrival in Marshall County.
I was told when I moved here it's a basketball county. And that has certainly held true.
The state championships over the past 19 years have been special.
But the thing I have cherished the most are the memories the trophies, yes, but more so the players, the coaches, the fans, the rides there and back.
And I've always loved to hear that announcer prior to introducing the starting lineups for each game "Welcome to The Big House."
Mississippi high school basketball is rich in tradition. And The Big House is a huge part of that tradition.
I recently read an article from 2015, written by Jon Wiener for the Jackson Free Press just prior to the state tourney that season. Here are just a few paragraphs.
"High Street (in Jackson) will bustle as people from Booneville to Biloxi invade the Coliseum stands. Fans of all ages, armed with boundless school spirit and signs--lots and lots of signs, will fill the seats.
"Under the Big House backdrop, stars become heroes, and great moments become lifetime memories.
"From the impassioned small-town communities and schools that invade the Coliseum stands to the hoops-rich metropolis it calls home, The Big House experience every March represents the city and state's best feet forward."
This year the Mississippi High School Activities Association changed up the basketball playoff format.
Quarter-finals were held at various locations across the state. For our teams it was Mississippi Valley State and Itawamba.
The state semi-finals moved to The Big House.
And then the state championship games were played at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
I hate to straddle the line. But I'm mixed about the move.
I'm an old school guy. I love the tradition of The Big House. I love the six-hourround-trip rides to Jackson for the games with good friends.
Heck, I just love writing the words "The Big House."
But then I realize, too, it was time to try something different. Mississippi Coliseum was built in 1962, a year after I was born.
This year, the experience of Itawamba Community College and then The Pavilion for myself as a media person, and in particular the players, was magnificent.
I like the change. But let's always keep The Big House in the playoff mix.