Judge sacks last-minute bid to delay football playoffs Meade stays on sidelines after injunction quest fails

Local Sports

November 14, 1997|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Meade football coach Mark Frye, his star player Tanardo Sharps, the school principal and the athletic director took the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association into overtime yesterday, but to no avail.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Martin A. Wolff sacked their request for an injunction, trying to keep the MPSSAA from starting its football playoffs tonight until determining whether Meade -- left out on a technicality -- should be included.

"Time worked against us," said Michael L. Wilsman, one of the plaintiff's attorneys. "We're disappointed for the players."

Sharps, one of 22 seniors on Meade's team, is 18 years old and was listed as one of the plaintiffs. The Mustangs' record-setting running back signed a sworn statement saying he would "suffer immediate, substantial and irreparable injury and harm" if he could not compete in the playoffs.

Hoping to play in college, Sharps contended he could not afford to pay tuition and would need a scholarship, which could come via exposure in the state playoffs.

The legal action came as a result of the state association's forcing Oxon Hill, from Prince George's County, to forfeit on Monday all its regular-season games because of using an ineligible player. Oxon Hill had been seeded eighth in the Class 4A tournament on Sunday, when pairings were decided. But the next day, when the ineligibility problem popped up, Walbrook was given the nod as the next eligible team, because Walbrook was seeded ninth at Sunday's meeting.

Meade (7-3), which was seeded 11th Sunday, gained a victory, however, for its loss to Oxon Hill during the season, giving it one-tenth of a point more in tournament qualifying points than Walbrook (7-2), which did not play Oxon Hill. Therefore, Meade should have been the eighth seed once the forfeits were factored in and Walbrook the ninth seed.

"It is unfortunate for Meade and its players that Oxon Hill's ineligible player was discovered so late, especially only four days from the first tournament games," Wolff wrote to both parties.

The state said any re-calculating would have resulted in 10 schools in two tournaments, for Class 3A and 4A schools, playing different teams on short notice.

"I was pleased with the decision and thought the judge fairly accurately summed up everything very well," said MPSSAA executive director Ned Sparks, who with department of education attorney Joann Goedert spent the day in Annapolis. The two sides met in the judge's chambers at 10 a.m. and waited until nearly 4: 30 p.m. for his decision.

None of the plaintiffs was present, but they were represented by attorneys and Meade assistant principal Bob Ferguson.

"The plaintiffs have failed to join a necessary party in this action, Walbrook, who would be removed if the plaintiffs prevailed," the judge wrote.

Furthermore, Wolff wrote that he "believes that the decision [to exclude Meade] was made under the tournament rules and the likelihood of success is doubtful. A second factor is the balance of convenience."

By that, the judge was referring to the chaos that would have resulted if Meade had been entered.

The judge also considered the motion to move the entire schedule back one week as not practical after Sparks said that Maryland's Byrd Stadium, site of the finals, would not be available.

Sparks also pointed out that extending the season would handicap athletes who play winter sports. Meade's other solution of playing all first-round games Monday to buy more time was also considered not practical by the judge.

"The balance of convenience weighs heavily against Meade," said Wolff.

His decision ended a controversy that began Monday with the Anne Arundel County School Board backing out and deciding it could not sue on Wednesday, nor could Meade alone, and that any attempt at gaining a restraining order would have to come from a student, parent or other individuals.

Thus the complaint filed in circuit court Thursday morning listed Sharps, Frye, Meade principal George J. Kispert and athletic director, Sam Pandullo as the plaintiffs. The Maryland State Board of Education and its superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, the MPSSAA and Sparks were named as defendants.

Since the state playoffs began in 1974, several attempts have been made to obtain restraining orders to stop tournaments. None has succeeded.

Pub Date: 11/14/97

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