Catholic League 'heading for a strong run,' says Russo


January 17, 1995|By LEM SATTERFIELD

Mark Russo wasn't a standout when he played on Jerry Savage's first team at Loyola 27 seasons ago. But he maintained close ties to the Catholic League as a referee.

Last month, Russo was named commissioner of the Catholic League.

bTC "It's certainly a honor," he said. "Comparatively speaking, the league is still very young [24 years old]."

Russo, 43, succeeds Jim "Snuffy" Smith, who stepped down more than a year ago because of business obligations. Savage was acting commissioner during that period.

Russo, a referee on the college and high school level for 20 years, played varsity for two seasons at Loyola before moving on to Holy Cross.

"Basketball is a very pleasant diversion for me," said Russo, who is also an insurance agent. "I've been fortunate to know as many people as there is to know in this area."

Russo said he first was approached by the late Cardinal Gibbons basketball coach Ray Mullis about the position a year ago. Russo, who officiated in the Catholic League for 10 years, couldn't resist.

On his agenda, Russo wants to market the league to increase local fan interest. With the success of St. Frances, Calvert Hall, Cardinal Gibbons and Loyola, each ranked in The Sun's Top 20, he believes the league is heading toward dominance again.

"I'm positive that we are heading for a strong run in the years to come," he said. "The Catholic League offers great competition with quality schools offering a solid education."

The Catholic League Tournament, which had been at Loyola College the past nine years, will be played at UMBC on Feb. 25-26. Russo said a scheduling conflict with Loyola College was the reason for the site change.

J. Carroll leaves Harford

The dissolution of the Maryland Scholastic Association and the resulting formation of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association has forced John Carroll to withdraw from the Harford County League in football, effective before the start of the 1995 season.

The school will be able to continue its current county affiliations, however, in other sports -- cross country, track and field, girls volleyball, swimming, and baseball -- through the spring of 1996.

When the MIAA drew up its constitution last spring, Article III, Section 3 stated that all MIAA members must play all sports. "At the May meeting, we posed the possibility of John Carroll being 'grandfathered,' and allowed to continue the way we were, but we were told no," said Jerry O'Brien, the school's athletic director.

John Carroll's girls teams participate in two noncounty leagues already -- the Catholic League for soccer and basketball and the Association of Independent Schools for field hockey, lacrosse, and tennis, and those affiliations will continue.

Intentional grounding OK'd

The National Federation Football Rules Committee ruled last week that quarterbacks will be allowed to ground the ball intentionally to stop the clock as they do in college and pro football.

The maneuver only can be used immediately after the quarterback has received a hand-to-hand snap from center, not in the shotgun or in punt formation.

The new rule takes effect this fall.

"I think it's a good rule as long as it's something the pros and colleges do," said Ned Sparks, executive secretary of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

Patterson coach Roger Wrenn said it should help teams that use two-minute offenses.

"Usually you have three timeouts but now it's almost like a fourth," Wrenn said. "It will make it easier in the last two minutes of the game. You have to use time management. You have to be careful."

Lakers have right stuff

Top-ranked Lake Clifton will be getting a little national exposure when NBC's "NBA Inside Stuff" comes by the school Jan. 23-24 to interview star point guard Shawnta Rogers and coach Charlie Moore.

The program, with hosts Ahmad Rashad and Willow Bay, will air in late February on Channel 11.

Middle Atlantic's best

Three area basketball teams are ranked among the Top 26 in the January's issue of the Middle Atlantic Sports News, a recruiting newsletter that covers Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Dunbar, ranked No. 2 in the area, is No. 3 behind Roman Catholic of Philadelphia and Medford of Shawnee, N.J.

Lake Clifton, the area's No. 1 team and nation's No. 13 team by USA Today, is ranked ninth. Walbrook, the area's No. 4 team, is ranked No. 18.

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