First-and-10 on why area drops I-A pass

February 01, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

The fax machine will be humming at Dallas Carter High tomorrow, when that Texas power could have as many as eight players committing to play Division I-A football.

The start of the letter of intent signing period will be a tad quieter in the Baltimore area. If they're lucky, the area's 82 football-playing high schools will produce five players worthy of Division I-A scholarships.

It's an improvement over last year, which represented a low for football prospects in the area. City's Terrence Suber, who started in the Wake Forest secondary, was the only player coming out of an area high school last year who had the academic background and athletic skills necessary to get a I-A scholarship.

Has Baltimore become a wasteland for football talent?

Even after the addition of Poly, Baltimore's best, why was the area shut out in the state tournament?

Why has the area gone 15 years without producing a Division I-A quarterback?

Why did the area have only two dozen scholarship players in I-A programs last season, fewer than half of them starters?

With apologies to David Letterman, here's The Sun's Top 10 List of Reasons It's Going To Be Another Quiet Letter of Intent Day in the Baltimore Area.

10. Fewer opportunities

Division I-A scholarships have dwindled since the days when Bear Bryant could stockpile talent at Alabama or Johnny Majors could turn around Pitt with huge recruiting classes.

The NCAA instituted scholarship limits in 1973. In 1994-95, I-A football programs will be limited to 85 scholarships, and the most they can award in a single recruiting class is 25.

The area still is sending players to Division I-AA and II, but are the Ivy League and historically black colleges playing the caliber of football they were in the 1960s?

9. Fewer players

When George Young, the general manager of the New York Giants, coached City's powerhouse teams in the 1960s, the school had an all-male enrollment that exceeded 4,000. Two years ago, City's freshman class included 85 boys.

Baltimore's population dropped from 905,000 in 1970 to 736,000 in 1990, but it added three high schools in the same time. Fewer students at more schools led to less competition for playing time.

In the mid-to-late 1960s, City had that cast of thousands and Tom Gatewood, who would be an All-American end at Notre Dame, but the Knights didn't rout everyone. In 1966, Edmondson had a graduating class of 1,001, including a Penn State-bound running back in Charlie Pittman. Douglass was as proud as any city school, especially when it trotted out Ray Chester.

"The first-stringers back then were being pushed every day," said George Petrides, who played for City in 1966 and now coaches the Knights. "We had 33 players on our unbeaten team in 1992. I'll tease the kids, and say, 'Mr. Young would never let me do that,' but there's some truth to it."

8. Higher standards

Many prospects were locked out when the NCAA introduced academic eligibility standards for incoming freshmen in 1986.

The state's plan to take over Douglass and Patterson points up the challenge for city coaches to find eligible players and field a team, but county schools such as Perry Hall and Severna Park, which send a high percentage of their students to college, also have had prospects who don't meet the NCAA standards.

Junior colleges channel players with academic deficiencies to Division I-A, but after Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford dropped the sport, Montgomery-Rockville was left as the state's only two-year college playing football.

7. County played catch-up

More than a quarter of the area's teams are part of the Baltimore County system, which didn't introduce football until 1967. That was only seven years before the first state tournament, and seven years after Montgomery County, which has 28 state titles, was turning out the likes of Mike Curtis.

Baltimore County was unable to dip into its own past to find coaches, and the county still lags in coaches' pay and facilities. Before summer pay is included, Montgomery coaches get $5,000, compared with $1,530 in Baltimore County.

However, Baltimore County at least has produced recent state champions.

The Liberty Road schools, Randallstown and Milford Mill, won state titles in 1984, '87 and '90. Wilde Lake won three straight titles in 1990-92, but the rest of Howard County has zero state titles since 1974. Anne Arundel County has gone 15 straight years without a title. Carroll County never has had a state championship team.

6. Friday night dark

Newcomers to Baltimore wonder why Friday night games aren't the event here that they are elsewhere in the United States.

Twenty years ago, a handful of area high schools had lighted fields. Now, the 25 football-playing public high schools in Anne Arundel, Carroll and Harford counties all have lights, but there are only six other on-campus, lighted fields in the area.

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