The Metro Classic, the annual city high school basketball charity event, is in jeopardy because of the Baltimore City Public Schools' entrance into the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association last spring.
Its fate may depend on whether the city schools can get an exemption from the MPSSAA bylaws that prohibit members from playing on Sunday.
"The Baltimore Arena [traditional site of the Metro Classic] is not available any other day but Sunday, and the Towson Center is not available," said Joni Scholwin, co-chair of the Metro Classic Planning Committee. Scholwin said that other venues such as UMBC would be too small for the Metro Classic, which drew approximately 10,000 people this year.
The Metro Classic originated in 1983, matching the boys and girls City Public School champions against the Catholic League champions. The format was altered in 1989 to include the Maryland Scholastic Association A, B and C Conference championship games as well as the girls game. Proceeds from the event benefit the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland, which helps needy families pay fuel costs.
If the city public schools do not receive approval for Sunday play, the committee
proposed canceling the upcoming Metro Classic and planning a strategy for 1994.
"There is no such thing as an exemption. We've been through that," said Ned Sparks, Executive Secretary of the MPSSAA.
Sparks said the request for a change in the rule was brought before the state school board during the spring.
"The request is on the agenda for the [MPSSAA] Board of Control meeting in December," he said. "If it passes, it then goes to local superintendents of schools and then before the state board. There you have a public hearing. If the bylaw is changed, it wouldn't take effect until next year. You can't make an exception for one game in one sport in one season and not do it for someone else."
Even if the request goes through the process, there is no guarantee the rule would be changed.
"There was a large outcry from principals and superintendents around the state who didn't want the rule changed," Sparks said. "Some of the comments were '[the city schools] knew the rules when they joined the MPSSAA. They went in with their eyes open.' "
Sparks said there are several reasons for the rule prohibiting play on Sunday, including "giving athletes the freedom to participate in other things, such as family events, church, etc." and "to protect kids from overzealous coaches and overzealous coaches from themselves. No one goes seven days,"
One proposed alternative was to play all-star games featuring top senior girls and boys in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. But members of
the committee opposed it.
Disadvantages of all-star games were cited, including MPSSAA and NCAA rules that limit the number of all-star games seniors can play to retain their eligibility, as well as a lack of interest in all-star exhibitions.
"The Metro Classic has always been a class act and we don't want it to be anything else," Scholwin said. "I have nothing against all-star games, but they don't make money, and raising money is what this is all about."
The Metro Classic has raised more than $300,000 in 10 years, including $35,000 in 1992, said Ellen Lockard, executive director of the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland Inc.
The importance of the Metro Classic is magnified by the recent House committee proposal that could reduce federal funds by as much as 40 percent to the Maryland Energy Assistance Program, Lockard said.
"If this cut is enacted, either about 26,000 fewer people will be served next year, or they'll serve the same number of people, but they'll cut the grant from an average of about $230 this year to $160 next year," Lockard said. "The impact on [the Fuel Fund] is that people come to us earlier and with larger bills."