The bad economy has helped accomplish what mere convenience could not.
Spurred by the opportunity to save on travel expenses, athleticadministrators of the Central Maryland Conference and Howard County schools will meet Tuesday to discuss a possible scheduling agreement for non-league games.
But unlike the previous discussions last spring, when coaches in Howard voted against such a plan, the administrators appear likely topress ahead this year.
"We're going to meet next week to discuss,for at least right now, a kind of non-league alliance," said Don Disney, supervisor of athletics and physical education in Howard.
Under the planned agreement, schools in Howard and the CMC would have the first shot at filling non-league dates for other schools in the alliance. All of the schools are within about an hour's drive.
Carroll schools currently fill most of their non-league games against teamsin Frederick or Howard counties, with a few in Baltimore, Montgomeryand Harford counties and Baltimore City.
But Howard and Frederickschools often travel to Southern Maryland, Western Maryland and Harford and Cecil counties to play non-league games.
"The budget has changed things," said Disney. "Some of our coaches are not going to behappy with this. Times are tough and it's very difficult to get non-league games."
Disney said that while no sports were cut from his budget, there were cuts in equipment money and the travel budget was slashed by $45,000. He said the options for saving money included scheduling closer games or cutting back substantially on JV travel.
The scheduling problem is made worse because in-county schedules severely restrict the number of non-league games played by teams in large counties such as Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George's.
"Howard, Frederick and Carroll, in geographic location, school size and philosophy, are very close," said Lynn Carr, who took overas supervisor of athletics and physical education in Frederick County after serving as a teacher, coach and administrator in Frederick and Harford counties. "We were going to Elkton (Cecil County) and traveling all over the state."
CMC schools additionally are hampered because many of their open dates are late in the season, when other leagues are locked into league play. That's the result of the departure of Damascus of Montgomery County just two years after the league started.
"It's real bad with this league of only seven teams," said Earl Hersh, Carroll's supervisor of athletics and physical education. "We can't fill the open dates during the season."
Disney said that while many of the CMC schools might not be happy to play the powerhouses in Howard in boys and girls soccer, some of his coaches might notbe happy about playing Thomas Johnson in basketball or several Carroll schools in wrestling.
In the long run, some Howard schools might have to stop playing non-league games in soccer against the powerful private-school teams in Baltimore. Disney said current contracts for non-league games would have to be honored, but in the future, thoseschools likely would make non-league dates open to other alliance members first.
Disney, Carr and Hersh said quite a few details of the arrangement must be worked out, including how the open dates would be parceled among the 15 schools. In the CMC, any such arrangement must be agreed to by school principals.