When this fall's high school football season begins in Baltimore County, four black coaches will be on the sidelines.
The two newest, Bob Ray at Eastern Tech and Jack Bush at Randallstown, join Lansdowne's Terry Brooks and Woodlawn's Brian Scriven -- hired last year -- to raise the number of black football coaches in county history to six.
Joe Yates (Parkville) was the county's first from 1972 to 1981. Bob Greene (Milford Mill) was the second from 1991 to 1993.
"It's been a goal of this office to recruit quality female and African-American coaches," said Ron Belinko, county athletics coordinator.
"All kids need role models, and if 22 percent of Baltimore County school children are African-American, our coaches should reflect that. We feel we've got four quality people who'll teach the kids more than just the X's and O's."
Belinko estimates that Milford Mill, which recently hired Reggie Brooks -- who is black -- as athletic director, has the highest number of black students at 80 percent. Woodlawn is next at 75 percent, followed by Randallstown (55). Eastern Tech and Lansdowne are at around 10 percent.
"You often find yourself as a father figure or big brother figure, wearing a lot of different hats," said Scriven, 29, Woodlawn's youngest black staff member.
"I can only be successful if I maintain a positive image. Anything I do that is negative can have a big effect on those who look up to me."
Ray, 54, is the elder statesman of the group. He was an assistant for 10 years to Jim Salters, who retired as coach and as Eastern Tech's athletic director after being there since the school opened in 1969.
"For years, I think I've had the respect of my players and the county's coaches," Ray said. "I'm just going to do the things I always have. Whether you're black or white, if you know football, let your knowledge take precedent."
That's an attitude Terry Brooks, 30, carried as Lansdowne struggled through its second straight 0-10 season. Brooks, a Towson State graduate who spent one season with the NFL's Cleveland Browns, said his team showed progress compared with the 1992-93 season, when it forfeited its first three games.
"We doubled the amount of players they had the previous year," said Brooks, a graduate of Linganore High in Frederick County. "I got compliments from opposing coaches and the school's faculty. No one ever made a big deal of it [his being black]."
Belinko says Bush, 45, may be in the toughest position. "Being new to the area and replacing a successful coach, he'll be scrutinized by the parents and community," he said.
Bush's predecessor, John Buchheister (128-44 over 16 years), won a 1A state title at Milford Mill and a 3A championship at Randallstown in 1990.
A scout for the New England Patriots last year, Bush had a summer internship with the Washington Redskins and has assisted at four colleges -- two in Ohio.
"I plan to get out into the community and get them involved as much as I can. It'll be a lot of work, but it's nothing I can't handle," said Bush, who brings experience from five high schools, four in Kansas City, Mo.
Scriven, a Philadelphia native, was an all-conference safety at Bloomsburg University. He signed with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts in 1986 but suffered a career-ending thigh injury without playing a down.
Scriven, who assisted for three years at Bloomsburg until 1991, replaced George Goudy (73-41 in 11 seasons) at Woodlawn.
"I never looked at it as being 'a young black coach,' though I was aware of the situation," said Scriven. "It was just a feeling-out process, testing the waters and establishing my philosophy without rocking the boat."
Scriven's Warriors did make waves, however, going 8-3 and reaching the 4A state playoffs.
"Having been a young black male in high school gave me certain advantage," said Scriven. "I've been where they [players] are at, and football is a way of giving discipline and structure."