Longtime supporters lose good friend in MSA Early obstacles lesson to League

September 15, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Hy Zolet spoke yesterday as if a close friend had died.

"I'm devastated," said Zolet, a 66-year-old former athletic director at Forest Park and Patterson before retiring in 1990. "My sons Morry and David called me this morning to offer their condolences."

Zolet was distraught over the demise of the 75-year-old Maryland Scholastic Association. Nearly 24 hours earlier representatives from 25 of the 35 member schools voted 20-5 to discontinue the organization that has governed boys high school athletics in the Baltimore area.

"Some teams will continue to play each other, but it'll be pick and choose," said Zolet. "Choosing not to play the private schools, in my opinion, will be a negative. And some public schools will never ever play another private school."

The MSA's downfall began in June 1992, when the city public schools joined the statewide Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. That move forced the city schools to seek competition against teams in higher classifications, because the MPSSAA awards more points for wins over larger schools (Class and 3A) than smaller schools (Class 2A and 1A).

Although points are awarded for wins over non-MPSSAA schools, all but two of the 20 private and parochial schools in the MSA are classified as 1A schools.

"The big problem is the constraints put on the public schools by the MPSSAA, with the size of the school determining who you play," said MSA president Vince Bagli.

The organization will maintain financial support of winter sports -- paying for trophies, ribbons, championship games and plaques, and "honoring the schedules and contests already set up," said Bagli.

Zolet, the MSA's secretary, recalls his first year as a teacher at then-all-white Forest Park in 1952 when the MSA was integrated by all-black schools Dunbar, Douglass and Carver.

"Those were tumultuous times for everyone, but we got through them," said Zolet, a two-way tackle on Forest Park's football team in 1946. "There are a lot of people whose strength made the MSA so profound during its time."

One of those people, Charlie Gamper, heard about the decision in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire. Gamper, 74, has lived there since 1985, when he retired as Gilman's Dean of Students and from a 12-year-long MSA presidency.

"I remember the riots in the 1960s, when Martin Luther King was shot," said Gamper. "We survived all of that and some other things."

If this is the end of the MSA, said Zolet and Gamper, it will never be replaced. "We're losing something that was very unique," said Gamper. "It was an aid in maintaining a high spirit among young people in the Baltimore community."

The MSA has scheduled a final pre-winter season meeting for Dec. 16, where discussions will center on forming a new league for the private and parochial schools -- possibly called the Baltimore Metro League -- and spring schedules.

Candidates for the new league are Curley, Spalding, Arlington Baptist, Lutheran, Beth Tfiloh, Boys' Latin, Calvert Hall, Gibbons, Friends, Gilman, John Carroll, Loyola, McDonogh, Mount Carmel, Mount St. Joseph, Park, St. Mary's, St. Paul's, Severn and Towson Catholic.

"All sides -- the public, private and Catholic schools -- tried to make things work out," said Patterson athletic director Roger Wrenn. "But we just reached a point where it didn't."

City schools, meanwhile, have established their own City-Wide leagues.

Football coach Obie Barnes of Forest Park, which, like Poly, still has 1A-sized Gilman on its schedule, said: "Regardless of the classification, we want to maintain the MSA affiliation."

Few other football teams have retained private schools on their schedules. City, for example, has an all-city public school schedule this season, ending rivalries with Calvert Hall, Loyola and Gilman.

"I have mixed emotions," said City coach George Petrides. "I'll miss all of those tough A Conference games, but now we're going in a different direction. It's good for the public school students and athletes to have that opportunity to earn a state championship. They deserve that."

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