Girls teams benefit, but city's move to MPSSAA forces sacrifices as well Switch to state organization spells end of some traditions

November 04, 1992|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer Staff writer Bill Free contributed to this article.

Eva Scott, Western High's athletic director, calls it "the culmination of years of hard work."

Mitch Tullai, football coach at St. Paul's and former athletic director at the school, calls it "the death knell" of the Maryland Scholastic Association.

This fall, Baltimore City's 16 public schools moved from the MSA to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. Walter Amprey, the Baltimore schools superintendent, mandated the move to the MPSSAA earlier this year. The effects are already being felt.

* The girls teams at city public schools are on equal footing with boys teams for the first time. The MSA includes only boys teams, so girls teams in the city were left without an athletic organization. The MPSSAA offers postseason play in eight girls sports, including several not offered at city schools.

* For the first time, boys and girls teams in the city can compete in regional and state championships.

* The MPSSAA classifies schools by enrollment, so Dunbar will compete in the state's smallest category, Class 1A, even though its basketball team is one of the best in the nation. The MPSSAA also restricts travel: Dunbar, Western and other city basketball teams that once competed in national tournaments will have to stay closer to home.

* The MSA and MPSSAA also have different rules regarding eligibility and transfers. One case this fall highlighted those differences: Former Patterson quarterback Buddy Edmond had to transfer to a private school to play his senior season because he had used up his MPSSAA eligibility.

* City and Poly will play their traditional football game on Thanksgiving for the last time this year, and the Metro Classic basketball tournament is in jeopardy because of MPSSAA scheduling rules that differ from MSA regulations.

"The No. 1 priority in the move was the girls teams," said Mark Schlenoff, the athletic director at Poly and vice president of the MSA. "Girls teams that never had a chance in the past to compete in postseason tournaments will now have a shot to win a state title."

City girls teams have played in the City-Wide league, an informal group with no governing officers or bylaws. Before this year, the most recognition the league had gotten was the chance to play the Catholic League girls champion in basketball at the Baltimore Arena as part of the Metro Classic.

This week, the city sends its first representatives into MPSSAA postseason play: The Western and City College girls soccer teams have made the regional playoffs.

Scott, who is in her 35th year at Western, was involved in failed attempts by the city girls to join the state association in 1976 and the MSA in 1981.

"The girls programs have been in the background for a long time with no sense of direction; this gives them a sense of direction," said Derek Maki, who coached Patterson's girls basketball squad to a 14-7 record last year, and its softball team to a 10-6 record.

In boys sports, Schlenoff said Amprey has encouraged city public schools to continue their ties with the 74-year-old MSA, one of the country's oldest high school organizations. But Tullai says, "The state rules and philosophies differ [from the MSA], so we won't have the closeness and cohesiveness any more."

The change means that city schools likely will compete in separate leagues from the private and Catholic schools in team sports such as basketball, baseball and football. There will be no change in individual sports such as wrestling, track and field and tennis, except that city public school athletes now will be able to advance beyond MSA championships to regional and state meets.

Football and boys soccer teams in the city aren't eligible for the MPSSAA playoffs that start next week because their schedules, which were set before the merger, conflict with the playoffs.

Not a good fit for Dunbar

The move to the MPSSAA doesn't thrill Dunbar boys basketball coach Pete Pompey, who says it detracts from his program. The nation's top-ranked team a year ago, the Poets now will be playing in Class 1A, where enrollments are smallest.

Also, public schools are limited to 28 games, including a maximum of 20 regular-season games. Dunbar went 29-0 last season.

But the overall level of play and exposure are Pompey's major concerns.

"I don't think [the Class 1A state title] holds as much water as who we played against [last season]. Top-notch talent attracts top-notch college scouts," said Pompey. "For years we've played teams like [former Class 4A state titlist] Annapolis, and we always beat them pretty easily. Going against those [Class 1A] schools is going to be kind of anticlimactic."

In addition, excursions such as the one the Poets made to Hawaii last year are out of the question under MPSSAA rules, which limit road trips to 600 miles round trip.

"That deprives us of giving a lot of the city kids the opportunity to expose themselves to places they rarely, if ever, get to see," said Pompey.

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