|Governor Haley Barbour to Be Joined by Mississippi Football Legends Archie Manning, Deuce McAllister, Hugh Green and LC Greenwood in Accepting Prestigious Award|
Football may still be king in California, Florida and Texas but a new powerhouse will be introduced today - the State of Mississippi - when Governor Haley Barbour accepts the 2006 Governor's Cup from USA Football, the national youth football advocacy organization founded by the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
The award salutes Mississippi as the nation's top football state following a study conducted by The Wharton Spots Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. The project encapsulated a variety of per capita criteria including, the percentages of collegiate and professional football fans, number of NFL players who hail from the state, percentage of high school football players in the state and percentage of high school players who have letters-of-intent to play for NCAA Division I-A colleges and universities.
"Receiving this honor is about celebrating a long history of Mississippi football legends - a tradition that continues today with many NFL stars who are Mississippi natives," said Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. "We're proud of them all. The 2006 Governor's Cup will serve as a symbol of the strength shown by Mississippians as they remain committed to rebuilding our communities following the tragedy that struck the Gulf Coast one year ago."
USA Football Chairman and former U.S. Congressman Jack Kemp will present Governor Barbour with the inaugural award at a press conference at the state capitol. The presentation will also offer an opportunity to celebrate with Mississippi football legends Archie Manning, Deuce McAllister, L.C. Greenwood, Hugh Green, and the family of Mississippi great Walter Payton. They will be joined by officials from the NFL, New Orleans Saints and members of Mississippi college, high school and youth football leagues.
The presentation of the 2006 Governor's Cup will also kickoff USA Football's "Play Football Month" celebration in conjunction with the NFL and NFL Players Association. Billed as the "World's Largest Youth Football Celebration," it is designed to promote the sport of football at all levels. From mid-August through mid-September, NFL teams will host special events in their communities, including clinics, skills competitions, scrimmages, picnics and parades. Additionally, USA Football will award $500,000 in equipment grants to youth football leagues throughout the country. Applications are available at www.usafootball.com.
"We present the Governor's Cup to recognize everything that's great about the sport of football - the passion of the fans, the focus of the players and the commitment of the coaches and administrators who help young men harness the skills necessary to ultimately play on Sundays," said Jack Kemp, Chairman of USA Football. "The lessons learned playing football extend beyond the fundamentals of the game. Football teaches important life lessons from dealing with adversity and developing a strong work ethic, to learning the value of teamwork and building character."
Research for the Governor's Cup was performed by Dr. Jason Wingard of The Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania and included data from the ESPN Sports Poll, the National Federation of State High Schools Association participation survey, College Sports Television's (CSTV) 2006 NCAA Division-I recruiting base, the National Football League and the 2000 U.S. Population Census.
The study ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on five different criteria: percentage of professional football fans (Mississippi ranked 21st), percentage of college football fans (15th), percentage of varsity high school football players divided by the state's male population 15-17 (3rd), percentage of signed NCAA Division-I recruits for 2006 divided by the number of 11-man varsity high school football players in that state (7th) and the percentage of NFL players on opening day rosters in 2005 divided by the number of 11-man varsity high school players in the state (8th). The states ranking in the top ten included (in order of finish) Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, Kansas and Florida.
Founded in 2002 by the National Football League and NFL Player's Association, USA Football is an independent non-profit organization whose purpose is to support and expand football at all amateur levels. The first national advocacy group created for this purpose, USA Football enhances the development and operation of leagues, teams, coaches, parents and players across the country with resources and best practices such as coaching and health & safety information. The organization also serves as the designated United States representative to the International Federation of American Football.