Western High athletic director Eva Scott has been in a remarkably good mood this week, and it's no wonder. After years of struggling for equality or at least better conditions for girls sports in the Baltimore City public schools, things are finally looking up.
Tuesday, Baltimore City schools superintendent Walter Amprey said that the city schools would apply for membership in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association by May 1, a move that would give the city girls program a legitimate league affiliation.
"I do feel like it's going to be a positive thing and I have worked toward that," Scott said. "I'm happy about it. I'm excited about it. We will have a chance to go to state championships and have some representation."
Scott has been at Western, the city's lone all-girls school, for 34 years. During that time, she has been involved in attempts by the city girls to join the state association (1976) and the Maryland Scholastic Association (1981).
The previous attempt to join the state association was turned down primarily because the city's boys programs were content with their membership in the Maryland Scholastic Association and did not apply.
"We had many meetings and we worked hard to get in, but we were turned down for three reasons," Scott said. "No. 1, they said to take the girls without the boys would be discrimination. Another reason was the state said all their money is raised from gate receipts [at playoff games] and the boys programs are needed to raise money because the girls don't draw that much. Also, they said expensive redistricting of the state would be necessary."
Initially there appeared to be some hope of joining the MSA, Scott said, but the group was not offering the girls program much help and the plan eventually fell through.
"The girls [division of the] MSA would have been part of the MSA, but we would have had our own meetings and our own officers," Scott said. "The question of financing was also addressed, and we were told there would be no money from the boys program used to help the girls get started."
In recent years, the city girls teams have played in the City-Wide league, an informal arrangement with no officers or bylaws and no real recognition for its league champions other than a chance to play the Catholic League girls champion at the Baltimore Arena as part of the Metro Classic.
The MPSSAA will offer the city schools opportunities to participate in postseason play in cross country, volleyball, basketball, track and field, softball and tennis.
"It gives us the opportunity to have programs for our women which is very important," Amprey said.
The state also has postseason tournaments for girls in lacrosse, field hockey, soccer and indoor track, although none of the city schools offers those sports for girls.
"I think this will help them," said Patterson athletic director Roger Wrenn, who has been a strong supporter of the city schools' moving to the MPSSAA. "It will give them more exposure and make our women's program more visible, give them a higher profile. They'll be seen throughout the state as individuals and as teams. We have some really excellent teams that will be able to showcase themselves like Walbrook and Western in basketball, Patterson and Southern in softball or Western in volleyball."
Wrenn says he also believes joining the state association would have a positive effect on some other lesser girls programs in the city.
"Instead of being insulated within the city, this will encourage better coaching and put more emphasis on the women's programs," he said. "I think the young ladies will have some goals to shoot for, some light at the end of the tunnel."