Importance of county races should never be understated

CARROLL SPORTS

May 12, 1993|By BILL FREE

The words from a man behind the dugout at South Carroll on Monday showed just how confusing the high school sports championship system is in Maryland.

The Cavaliers had just been eliminated from the county baseball title race by rival Westminster and fell to a 6-8 record. South Carroll would not make it four straight county titles.

But the man didn't care.

"I'm not worried about that," he said. "That's not important. The big thing is, are they going to make the regionals?"

Those were incriminating words for the state of high school sports in Maryland.

If no one cares about the regular season, no wonder games aren't attracting larger crowds and more revenue for a strapped high school athletic budget.

One need not look any further than the North Carroll-Francis Scott Key dual wrestling match at North Carroll last Feb. 3 to see what kind of crowds can be attracted if everything is riding on one event.

The winner of that match would be the county wrestling champion. No regional implications cluttered the picture and confused the audience.

More than 1,200 people crowded into the North Carroll gym that night, and the school collected more than $2,000, a record for an indoor event at the Hampstead school.

Right now, this state is too caught up in school classifications and points for the regionals to conduct a regular season that means something.

Because points, not records, mean everything, schools are qualifying for regionals with losing records. That is reminiscent of times past in the NFL, NBA and NHL, where expanded playoff systems have milked the importance out of the regular season.

Why has this happened at the high school level?

Why not make the regular season exciting and important by forcing a school to win a league title of some kind to advance to the state tournament?

Throw out the school size classifications and play ball, not mathematical games.

Form the regular-season leagues based on past performances in a sport instead of the number of students in school.

That will work.

For instance in wrestling, 1A Francis Scott Key and 2A North Carroll traditionally beat up on 4A Westminster and 4A Frederick.

In baseball this season, 2A North Carroll is 3-0 against 4A Frederick and 3A Thomas Johnson.

Football and basketball are different, so keep Key and North Carroll away from Thomas Johnson and Frederick.

With an equitable arrangement of leagues, the regular season would be a lot of fun for everybody and maintain interest for three months, not just a couple of weeks during the playoffs.

Why continue to be tied down to a class system that categorizes and stigmatizes schools?

Dunbar is only 1A and can play with any 4A basketball school in the country. Why should the Poets be restricted to the disclaimer 1A state basketball champions?

They deserve to be called state basketball champions, period.

Certainly the other schools who are the best in their sport in the state would like to have the same honor to be the one and only champion.

The time has come to pump excitement into high school sports.

Or the next thing that will happen in Maryland is the kind of proposal that is being discussed in Hanover, Pa.

That proposal in Hanover is to have students pay to play high school sports, just as they have to do to play in recreation leagues.

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