The big soccer games are off, for now.
Centennial won't be playing Calvert Hall; Howard won't play St. Joe.
The problem isn't lack of desire to face tough opponents. Instead, county soccer coaches say it's the result of decisions made by the school board and Superintendent Michael E. Hickey.
Hickey's budgetfor the upcoming fiscal year eliminated $12,000, or $750 apiece in bonus pay for 16 varsity soccer coaches. Each coach received $75 a dayfor conducting two weeks of practice before the first day of school.
Hickey has banned voluntary or unpaid practices by athletic coaches from Aug. 15 to 23. They may start coaching Aug. 24, the first daythat teachers are due to report for the new school year.
Since the state requires 21 days of practice before playing a game, schools will not be able to schedule a game until Sept. 14, too late to schedule many non-conference teams.
County soccer coaches say that thesecuts will damage what has been the most successful high school soccer program in the state since 1979. Last year county teams won four state championships out of a possible six.
"We won't be winning any four titles this year," said Rick Wilson, Wilde Lake's girls coach. "We'll be losing valuable practice time that we can never make up. We're only allowed to practice two hours per day once school begins."
Supervisor of Athletics Don Disney disagreed. "I think you'll still see a full slate of state champions from Howard County next year," hesaid. "Other counties don't start soccer practice Aug. 15."
One of the biggest games canceled is the one between Centennial and Calvert Hall. Last year that game decided the top spot in The Baltimore Sunpoll. Centennial won that game and finished the season unbeaten and as state champion. It was Calvert Hall's only loss, and the Cardinalsfinished second in the poll.
"I've already notified Coach (Bill) Karpovich (of Calvert Hall), and he understands the situation and knows we're not trying to duck him," Centennial coach Bill Stara said.
Calvert Hall begins its league schedule Sept. 15 and has no leeway after that date to play Centennial, Stara said.
Howard High also will cancel its game with Calvert Hall. At this point, the Lions have only one non-league game scheduled, for a total of eight games, said Howard Athletic Director Vince Parnell.
"We'll have to cancel Calvert Hall and St. Joe because of this," he said. "Bel Air doesn't wantto play us any more, and our game with Gilman last year was a one-shot deal. Our only definite non-league game is with Frederick."
Centennial and other county schools traditionally have a difficult time scheduling games, because their reputations as perennially strong soccer teams makes other schools shy away.
The scheduling problem is complicated further because big counties such as Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Baltimore are so large they must fill their 12-game schedules with teams from within their own counties. The state does not allowschools to schedule more than 12 games.
Hammond girls coach Dave Guetler also expressed dismay. "We're going to have to drop games with Middletown, Fallston and McDonogh because of this, leaving us with a nine-game schedule. And we'll lose valuable conditioning time. That's going to lead to more injuries."
Some schools may also wind up without enough games to qualify for the state playoffs. The state considers nine games the minimum number a school should play, and uses nine as a divisor in computing playoff rankings. A team that plays only eight games would be severely penalized.
"Right now, we have only nine definite games, and I'm not going to be spending my planning periods calling 30 or 40 schools, especially since my schedule was set," Stara said. "I challenge Don Disney to find me a Class 3A or 4A opponent within our given time slot." Centennial is in Class 3A.
Disney said he would intervene with the Maryland Scholastic Association,a private league in Baltimore to which Calvert Hall and St. Joe belong, to facilitate scheduling for this season.
Disney also said that scheduling would cease to be a major problem once the county opens two new high schools by the middle of this decade. He added that in the spring of 1993 the county will enter Phase I of a tri-county scheduling program with Frederick and Carroll counties that would also alleviate scheduling problems.
"If Disney is saying that the scheduling problem is only going to exist for one year, that's fine," Stara said. "But what if that year happens to be your kids' senior year? Hissolutions all look good on paper, but in the real world none of themhold water."
The pay cut for soccer coaches was almost overturnedby the school board at its final budget session Tuesday. School board member Dana F. Hanna made a motion to restore the cut. The motion was seconded and debated but ultimately failed by a 3-2 vote.
Soccer coaches were the only ones other than football coaches who were receiving that pay. The soccer coaches will continue to receive their regular coaching salaries of $2,500 apiece.
Stara said that coaches are now in the process of gathering signatures in preparation for itsunion, the Howard County Education Association, filing a formal grievance over the pay cut.
"I hope the parents are still actively supporting this issue, because it's their kids who will be directly hurt," Stara said. "Money is not the issue. I can make $750 during a weekof coaching a summer camp."