Breaking up is hard to do for MSA rivals

October 11, 1994|By BILL TANTON

A lot of people hate it.

"It's terrible," says Charley Gamper, one of the most respected men ever to grace the local high school sports scene. "I'm sorry I lived to see it."

"It's awful," says a veteran game official, who asked that his name not be used for fear it would affect his future schedule. "There's no competition any more."

What they're complaining about is last year's breakup of the Maryland Scholastic Association, which resulted when the Baltimore public schools joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

That put the public schools, for the first time, under the state's umbrella and permitted them to participate in state championships.

It also ended long-standing rivalries, public schools vs. private and Catholic, and sent the non-public schools scurrying to find new opponents to replace Poly, City, Forest Park, etc.

The result has been a season that sometimes seems pointless. Look at some of last weekend's results.

Patterson walloped Northwestern, 34-0. Dunbar routed Southwestern, 48-0. Poly won, 34-0, over Douglass, which hasn't scored a point all year. City beat Forest Park, 20-0.

At the same time, schools such as Gilman and Loyola, which every year used to play several public schools, are now playing Boys' Latin, Washington-area Catholic schools and Malvern.

Malvern?

Malvern Prep is in the Philadelphia suburbs. Its football team must be pretty decent. It only lost, 20-15, to Loyola Saturday on a last-minute touchdown.

There's nothing wrong with going out of town for a game. But it was better when most of the games were played against local traditional rivals.

Gilman, for instance, is deeply disappointed that it cannot play neighborhood rival Poly this year.

"We played Poly for years and years," Gilman athletic director and football coach Sherm Bristow said when his '94 schedule was announced. "We had a wonderful relationship. The competition was great. The games were always close. And we never had a problem."

So now the schools don't meet and Gilman in the last two weeks has pounded Good Counsel, from Wheaton (42-3), and St. Mary's of Annapolis (35-8).

A spectator at the St. Mary's game was Gamper, retired Gilman AD now living in New Hampshire. Gamper poured his heart and soul into the MSA for a lot of years.

"Oh, I'll admit, I'm prejudiced," said Gamper, who was president of the MSA from 1968 to 1984 -- and secretary for 10 years before that under the late Herb Armstrong. "This would have been the 75th year for the MSA. I hated to see it break up.

"The MSA was unique. In just about every city there's a public school league, a Catholic league and a private league. We had them all in one. We thought that was healthy for everybody.

"The first time a white youngster ever wrestled a black kid in Baltimore was in the '50s. Gilman's Mac Reinhoff wrestled Vic Dates, from Poly. The MSA was proud of that. Later Vic Dates sent his sons to Gilman and became a trustee of the school."

Is the new setup bad or good?

"There are mixed reviews," says Patterson AD and football coach Roger Wrenn, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the area by The Sun. "It depends on your perspective.

"It's been great for the girls programs -- and half the students in the public school system are girls.

"Before, they had nothing but a few games among themselves. Now they can play in the state championships. Western won the state AAAA [highest classification] basketball championship last year. The female coaches think this is the best thing that's ever happened.

"I've been a strong advocate of joining the state. My son, Russell, is on the football team at Gilman and he asked me why I favored this. I told him, 'I love you very much, but I have to think of the good of all the students in the public schools.'

"The one thing I can never get away from is the girls part. They just were not involved in the MSA.

"The MSA was a great organization that served a purpose when it was needed. But as the rest of the state has grown up the present setup became desirable. It was time for something different for the public schools."

Augie Waibel, in his 28th year as Poly's football coach, sees both sides of it: "We don't have the rivalries we used to have, and we're not playing a lot of competition.

"I saw Elmer Bright [retired Poly coach] Sunday, and I told him this makes it tough to get the kids fired up -- and we know that down the road, in the tournament, the competition will be tougher.

"I have to admit it was fun last year to play in the state tournament and play at College Park in the AAAA championship game [which Poly lost by three points to Seneca Valley]."

There is opportunity for occasional public vs. non-public games, but it will never again be the way it was.

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