The bylaw that prohibits formal protests of rulings in Maryland highschool athletic events apparently is similar to that in many other states and at the nation's colleges.
The rule came to light in the wake of Francis Scott Key's protest of a decision to disqualify several runners in the Class 1A boys cross country championships earlier this month. Key coach Jim Bullock sent a detailed protest letter to Edward F. "Ned" Sparks, executive secretary of the Maryland Public School Athletic Association, after the race.
Section .07-A(12) says, "The rules of the MPSSAA do not provide authority to order games replayed. Protests arising from decisions andinterpretations by officials during the game will not be considered.Officials' decisions and interpretations are final."
Carroll had a similar run-in with the state bylaws in 1983, when Liberty's boys basketball team was not credited with two free throws made in a regional playoff against Woodward High of Montgomery County. Woodward was incorrectly credited with the free throws by the neutral official scorer -- score-keepers from both teams and two newspaper reporters all had credited the free throws properly -- but referees allowed the official book's scoring to stand.
Liberty lost the game by four pointsin overtime and protested, but Sparks said the association had no formal appeal process once the game was over.
Changing the results is not an option, Sparks said last week of the cross country situation.
"Put the shoe on the other foot," Sparks said. "This is truly one of those no-win situations."
The problem this year arose when two Key runners -- along with six other competitors in the Class 1A race -- were disqualified by meet referee Stan Ziolkowski, a Carroll resident and longtime coach at Franklin High in Baltimore County, for running on the wrong side of a cone marking the final turn on the 3-mile course.
Jon Hjembo and Mitch Jones, running in the top 10 for Key at the time, were disqualified, and the Eagles wound up in second place in the team standings behind Joppatowne of Harford County.
Bullock immediately appealed, unsuccessfully, to Ziolkowski to reverse the ruling. Then, Bullock filed a formal appeal with the jury of appeals, which included members of the state cross country games committee.
Bullock, in his letter to Sparks, expressed concern that not all members of the games committee were involved in hearing the appeal.But Sparks and John Grim, the Linganore High coach who also interprets rules for the committee, said the jury can be selected from any ofthe committee members.
Grim added that in Key's case, for practical reasons, most of the members selected came from Class 2A and 3A teams.
First, those meets were in the afternoon -- after the Class 1A and 4A meets -- meaning those committee members were waiting for their races to begin when the appeal was decided.
(The Class 1A and 4A members were in the WMC gymnasium for the awards ceremony, which was delayed so the appeal could be decided before the awards were presented.)
Additionally, none of the 2A or 3A coaches would have had a vested interest in the outcome of the appeal.
Once the appeal was denied by the committee, Sparks said, Key had no formal avenue of protest.
Both Sparks and Frank Kovaleski, a cross country and trackspecialist for the National Federations of State High School Associations, said it is common for high school governing bodies to prohibitformal protests after an event.
(Kovaleski and Warren Brown, another official with the federation, said that group does not keep records of which state associations allow protests and which do not.)
Rick Carpenter, the Western Maryland College athletic director and a former cross country coach, said the Middle Atlantic Conference has a rule prohibiting protests beyond the games committees. He added that while the NCAA bylaws language is not as specific as the MAC's, it does place final authority with the games committees.