Cowan is well-suited to the job New PE supervisor keeps eye on future

September 28, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Bruce Cowan can smile as long as he talks about field hockey, cross country, wrestling and the conduct of county athletes in state championship events.

But the smile fades when the new supervisor of physical education for Carroll County turns to the subject of high school football.

Some people believe the five county high schools, which combined for 12 wins last year, play the lowest caliber of football among the state's 23 counties.

Cowan doesn't deny that Westminster, Francis Scott Key, North Carroll, Liberty and South Carroll are going through "tough times," but he is hoping against hope that it is a "cycle thing."

"Having a shortage of qualified coaches is a problem," Cowan said. "In a period of the next five to seven years, a lot of coaches and athletic directors can retire."

One of the coaches who will be retiring in five years is South Carroll assistant Ken Parker, one of the top football coaches in the history of Carroll County and the state.

Parker built the Cavaliers into a consistent force for several years before he turned over the head coaching job to Gene Brown this season.

Cowan is worried about finding enough Ken Parkers to coach football in the next decade.

Cowan, 41, replaced Earl Hersh as supervisor of physical education for the county July 1. Hersh had become something of a legend during the 25 years he was on the job, helping the county grow from nine sports to 19.

Cowan called Hersh "a people person who was suited for the job."

"I hope I'm suited for this job," said Cowan, who played football for Hersh at Westminster High and returned to the county to coach and teach after playing football at Bridgewater (Va.) College. "I decided way back, three or four years into my teaching career, that I'd like to do it some day when Earl retired."

Cowan said his plan is to take Hersh's program and move forward. He insisted he didn't come to the position looking to make wholesale changes.

"I want to build upon what he's done," Cowan said. "As far as how I'll do that or what it means I'm not sure. I'll have to be here longer."

Cowan grew up in Finksburg, played three sports at Westminster High and as a tailback at Bridgewater was named the small college back of the year by the Richmond Touchdown Club.

He began his teaching career in the county at Eldersburg Elementary School and went on to coach football, wrestling and baseball at South Carroll and football at Liberty.

Cowan was the first football coach at Liberty when the school opened in 1981, and he took over as athletic director in 1984.

In 1987, he left coaching for administration, becoming assistant principal at Francis Scott Key.

"That administration position at FSK helped me get this job," Cowan said. "I know there are going to be tough decisions facing me. When coaches, kids and parents all feel strongly about an issue, I'm going to have to make a decision that I feel is best for the program. I know I'll be like an umpire, pleasing only 50 percent of the people."

Even though he has left the sidelines, Cowan still sees himself spending a lot of time at games and working long hours.

"You can't just come in the office at 8 and walk out at 4. You have to spend nights at games," Cowan said. "It's a time to be visible. I'll try and judge how the kids are performing and make sure all the state's rules and regulations are being followed. We look at safety, the facilities, coaches, officials and transportation."

While the football programs have been down recently, Westminster High won the state 4A field-hockey title last year and South Carroll was the state 3A field-hockey champion.

Westminster also has won the state 4A boys cross country championship two of the past three years, and Francis Scott Key apparently had won its second straight state 1A boys cross country title last year before two disqualifications dropped the Eagles to second.

"Overall, our athletic program is one of the best in the state," Cowan said. "We may not have won state championships in sports such as basketball and soccer, but we've had good teams. Also, our wrestling and girls track and field programs have been strong."

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