Even before this season's opening kickoff, Baltimore County's high school sports officials heard the bad news.
Dr. Robert Y. Dubel, superintendent of county schools, announced his retirement, effective next June. He has been a positive force for 15 years on many athletic issues.
"Dr. Dubel always has been an avid supporter of our programs," said Ron Belinko, coordinator of physical education for the county. "We certainly hope the new superintendent, who will be named next March, will be someone who considers physical education and athletics a vital part of our total educational program.
"Dr. Dubel recognized there isn't a group of people in the whole system that spends as much time with young people as our coaches."
Dubel, 66, hasn't just talked a good game. He has been there at the Greater Baltimore Football Classics over the years, lending his support to the all-star football teams. He has stood along chilly sidelines as his coaches and students faced the Maryland Scholastic Association senior all-stars. Two years ago, while reporters' pens froze when the thermometer dipped to 5 degrees and the winds gusted to 25 mph, Dubel remained for the entire game and seemed to enjoy every shivering minute.
Dubel already has agreed to serve as honorary team captain for this year's Classic, according to Mark Schlenoff, athletic director at Poly. Schlenoff, who is also secretary of the MSA, confirmed Dubel's continued support yesterday after announcing that Forest Park's Obie Barnes and Perry Hall's Joe Stoy will serve as head coaches for the MSA and Baltimore County all-stars, respectively.
Dubel also deserves credit for helping to lobby for lighted fields at various sites in the county. When Overlea met Towson last Friday night at Dundalk Community College, a county parent was eager to mention that night football is great for parents who work because they can see the entire game instead of the final few minutes.
That game shared a common bond with two other night games. Overlea coach Terry Ward gained his 100th career victory in 21 seasons. Severna Park's Andy Borland and Patterson's Roger Wrenn also won their 100th games elsewhere Friday night.
Ward wasn't particularly interested in dwelling on his own achievements. After his team's second straight victory, he was standing in the middle of the field, urging his players to stay focused.
"We always try to tell them to walk the straight and narrow," said Ward. "We're after them in the hallways and in the classroom. The great thing about our schedule this season is that we're playing so many night games [six]. That means the players won't have to get out of class early on Friday afternoons and miss class time."
Wrenn, in his 18th season, is another who constantly preaches the necessity to succeed off the field. He hopes to sit down soon with the new Baltimore City superintendent of schools, Dr. Walter G. Amprey, and discuss the possibility of the city public schools joining the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
Amprey has been at his new post less than two months.
"As soon as the beginning of the school year hoopla is out of the way, I would love to speak with the new superintendent," said Wrenn. "There has been a favorable response [from many city public schools] for joining the state association, but naturally we need to run our thoughts by Dr. Amprey first."
There's good news for Wrenn. Amprey already has accepted the invitation to be honorary team captain for the MSA all-stars at this year's Greater Baltimore Football Classic.
If the city public schools ultimately do join the MPSSAA, the city girls program should be the biggest benefactor. The city will have to come up with the funds to hire coaches and supply transportation and officials' fees for the various programs not even in existence now.
Wrenn had the girls program in mind when he first polled his fellow athletic directors to determine if there was enough interest in pursuing this matter.
There are a lot of miles to go before such a merger can happen. With coaches like Wrenn supporting the cause, we can only assume that all concerned will keep education as their top priority and base their athletic decisions on what is best for their students.