As early as this fall in at least two sports -- soccer and volleyball -- Maryland's public schools could switch from the state association's present point system to an all-inclusive, open state tournament.
Ron Belinko, Baltimore County's coordinator of athletics, heads a statewide commission of coaches, athletic directors and administrators who are examining improvements in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's present system.
The committee was formed in response to a statewide survey taken of public school coaches, athletic directors and principals, the majority of whom supported the switch to an open state tournament for some sports, including soccer, volleyball, softball, baseball, lacrosse, basketball and field hockey.
Football, said Ned Sparks, executive secretary of the state association, isn't a consideration because of the nature of the game. "It's something you can only play once a week," Sparks said. "So if we played [football] under this format, you'd be five weeks into the [winter] season."
Under the present system, which encourages teams to play larger, but not necessarily the most competitive schools, victories over Class 4A schools are worth eight playoff points, 3As worth seven, 2As worth six and 1As worth five.
Using a formula that involves points accumulated and number of games played, a rating is determined for each team and those with the highest ratings get to the playoffs.
The new system would allow every team a berth in regional playoffs without having to rely on point accumulation.
The regional champions then would play for the state title in a format yet to be determined.
"There's still a lot of give and take, but generally speaking, the concept is pretty exciting," said Sparks. "After the plan is presented, there will be an eight-month period where it may be ratified, so the final outcome could be different from what is now being presented."
It is likely to be tried in soccer and volleyball this fall, said Belinko, if it passes scrutiny in April by the state association's Board of Control. If approved, the new format would go into effect in the 1995-96 school year.
"Let's face it, we have coaches who play games with the schedules, not necessarily scheduling good teams," Belinko said. "Under an open state format, you would eliminate a lot of the scheduling concerns and encourage open scheduling."
The 16-team regional playoff field would be determined solely on a blind draw, Belinko said.
"A negative, I guess, is that the two best teams could meet in the first round, but regardless, the best team would get out of the region," Belinko said.
Geographically, said Belinko, "there are some neighborhood basketball rivalries that would be more likely to take place without having to worry about cross-classification. I'm totally sold on the idea."