MPSSAA, city schools may merge

March 18, 1992|By Sam Davis | Sam Davis,Staff Writer

Imagine Poly or City playing for a state football title and not each other on Thanksgiving Day, or Dunbar and Western competing for state boys and girls basketball championships. It could happen as early as the 1992-93 school year.

Baltimore's 16 public senior high schools are expected to apply for entrance into the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association by the May 1 deadline, according to city schools superintendent Walter Amprey.

Amprey has been a leader in the recent push to have the city schools join the MPSSAA. He organized an informational meeting with officials from the Maryland Scholastic Association, MPSSAA and the city schools last month, which led to the decision to apply.

"It appears to me it's in the city's best interest," Amprey said. "I also think it ties us into the overall Maryland State Department of Education, which I think is important. There's a connectiveness there I think we need to be more a part of."

Not everyone thinks it's a great idea. Dunbar, the only school that was against the move, would find its nationally ranked boys basketball team playing fewer games and its travel greatly curtailed.

There are also two minor hurdles to clear. The Baltimore City School Board must give its approval. Also, the MSA -- which is made up of private and parochial as well as city schools -- must agree to work with the city schools on schedule conflicts.

"The plan is to meet with the MSA and broach the subject with them," said Gary Thrift, the director of high schools for Baltimore. "We have a long-standing relationship with them of nearly 75 years, and we want to try to maintain that relationship. We'd like to continue to be part of the MSA, but still have an opportunity for our students to participate in postseason play [in the MPSSAA]."

The school board already has given tentative approval, Amprey said, and it should be made official at a board meeting tomorrow night.

The MSA is expected to work with the city schools to make the move possible, said MSA first vice president Mark Schlenoff, the athletic director at Poly.

"Right now, the MSA is going to try and accommodate the public schools in this venture," said Schlenoff. "It's going to take a cooperative effort. There will have to be some creative scheduling and some understanding on the part of the private and parochial schools."

Thrift said the city schools have decided to join the MPSSAA for NTC the opportunity to compete for state titles and to benefit the city's girls program, which has no real league affiliation. (The MSA is for boys only.)

"In addition to providing the public and city schools with a chance to identify with the state championship vs. a local MSA championship, it would certainly lend some credit to the schools' reputation and would certainly enhance opportunities for students to travel around the state and receive that recognition," said Thrift. "Additionally, we think it would be a tremendous shot in the arm for our girls athletic program because right now the girls really have no umbrella organization such as the MSA to look to."

MPSSAA officials seem set to accept city schools with open arms.

"We'd like to have them in, because then we'd have a true state champion when we run a tournament like this," MPSSAA president-elect Chuck Brown said at last weekend's boys state basketball tournament at the University of Maryland.

The status of the MSA has been a major concern. There are several city school officials with MSA ties, including Amprey, who competed in MSA leagues in football and track at Edmondson during 1959-62.

"I still have some MSA championship trophies lying around," said Amprey, who was formerly a principal at Baltimore County's Woodlawn High, a member of the MPSSAA.

However, it is believed the 35-member MSA is in no danger if schedule conflicts can be worked out.

Last spring, after the issue was raised by Patterson athletic director Roger Wrenn, all but one of the city schools -- Dunbar -- responded favorably to joining the MPSSAA.

The MPSSAA's limitations on travel (no more than 600 miles round trip) and basketball games (no more than 22) could cause problems for Dunbar. This past season, the Poets played 29 games and took trips to Hawaii, St. Louis and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Also, Poly and City were concerned about schedule conflicts for the state football championship games and their annual Thanksgiving Day football game. The state championships are played the weekend after Thanksgiving. However, Schlenoff said the date of the Poly-City game likely would be changed.

"Just as Dunbar is more than basketball, Baltimore City athletics is more than Dunbar," said Amprey. "We all have to make sacrifices. Right now, we have to make the decision that is best for the overall school system."

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