Hard to believe this has been my 57th year of covering sports in Mississippi. Fifty-seven years! Think about it. I covered the integration of sports in Mississippi. I covered the game-changing effects of Title IX on women’s sports. I have watched college baseball go from being a springtime dalliance to a huge business, one that Mississippi teams are extremely proficient at. Two years, two national championships. Can’t wait for next spring.

I have covered 13 head football coaches at Ole Miss, nine at Mississippi State — including the legendary Mike Leach, 13 at Southern Miss and 10 at Jackson State. That 13th coach at Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin, and that 10th at Jackson State, Deion Sanders, have kept me really busy here the last few weeks.

And I know what you’re thinking: Where is he going with this? Bear with me, I am getting there …

People ask me all the time: Do you ever get tired of writing about games or the people who play them? I do not. Every game is its own passion play. Every athlete has his or her own story. I have learned over the years, it’s not so much about the games as it is the people who play them. Fact is, sports are a huge part of Mississippi’s social fabric.

I love what I do. I love my job. Indeed, I love the job I have now more than any I have ever had. For the past six years, I have written my columns for Mississippi Today, joining this not-for-profit company not long after its launch.

I believe in Mississippi Today’s mission. I believe we have filled a void left by newspapers’ drastic cutbacks and, worse, closures, across the state. In a democracy such as ours, newspapers have been the traditional watchdog over government at all levels. In Mississippi, we were dangerously close to losing that, especially at the state level. Mississippi Today has filled the void.

As our newsroom has grown, so has our influence. One of the biggest news stories in Mississippi this year has been the Robin Hood-in-reverse, robbing-from-the-poor, giving-to-the-rich welfare scandal that has rocked the state. Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe first uncovered and then has owned that ongoing story.

What’s more, Mississippi Today currently is covering the state’s health care crisis as no other news organization has. Hospitals are closing, and many more are on the verge. Health services are being slashed. Hundreds of thousands of Mississippians cannot afford the care they need. Too many people are dying far before they should. State government has largely turned a blind eye to the catastrophe. Mississippi Today hasn’t. And won’t.

By now, you probably know that Mississippi Today is a non-profit newsroom. Our digital, public service journalism is free. We operate for the most part on gifts from foundations and on donations from readers such as you. Please consider helping us continue to cover Mississippi and its people in the manner it must be covered.

I work here, but I give, too. Please join me.

Most of all, keep reading. You keep reading, and we’ll keep telling your stories.


Now through December 31, the Maddox Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s education program, and additional supporters will match your new recurring donation dollar-for-dollar, combined up to $54,000. That means your $25 turns into $100 to continue telling your stories.

Maddox Foundation was founded by Dan Maddox in 1968. He and his wife, Margaret Maddox, had a commitment to young people, a love of nature and a vision for making their corner of the world a better place. Maddox Foundation President Robin Hurdle has continued their legacy, which lives on through the current work of the foundation. 

Maddox Foundation, located in Hernando, has made many signature investment grants into youth development. These investments include renovating and supporting the Margaret Maddox Family YMCA; putting an internet-connected computer in every public classroom in Mississippi; creating innovative places for children to learn and play; establishing the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi; and funding the Education Director position and the MTV exhibit at the Grammy Museum Mississippi.

The Jonathan Logan Family Foundation (JLFF), based in Berkeley, CA, supports organizations that advance social justice by promoting world-changing work in investigative journalism, the arts, documentary film and democracy. As a small foundation, JLFF’s investment in NewsMatch allows the Foundation to make a difference across the entire field of local investigative journalism.

The Hewlett Foundation’s Education program supports media outlets that strengthen the information ecosystem around our country’s K-12 education systems. They believe that local communities are a key part of improving teaching and learning opportunities for every student.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.