Dunbar's Mitchell may quit Football coach cites city's poor facilities

December 01, 1997|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Saying he is "drained mentally and physically" because of a lack of adequate facilities, Stanley Mitchell said yesterday that he may resign as Dunbar High's football coach.

Mitchell completed his fifth season as Poets coach on Saturday with a 22-6 loss to Fort Hill in the state Class 2A final.

"I talked to my principal [Charlotte Brown] twice during the middle of the year, and she was very supportive both times, telling me to be absolutely sure," said Mitchell, who has a 50-12 record. Mitchell said he will decide within two weeks.

"They can build new football and baseball stadiums in the city, but the inner-city high schools get blocked out," Mitchell said. "Our equipment is unsafe. We have to be more creative in our training methods. It's amazing, when I see what some of the county schools have, that we've made it as far as we have with the facilities we have and the field [William 'Sugar' Cain Field] we practice on.

"Every day, we have to play around [dog feces], people riding bicycles through our practices, broken bottles," Mitchell said. "I don't want it to seem like I'm going out a sore loser, but I just don't see the system changing that much, and I don't see it getting better for Baltimore City football."

Bob Wade, Dunbar's football coach for 11 years until 1987 and now the city's coordinator of athletics, said: "Granted, more money is needed in the interscholastic program as a whole in Baltimore City, but we all have come a long way from walking out to Clifton Park.

"We [Dunbar's early teams under Wade] had to practice after catching a charter school bus out to Clifton Park," Wade said. "It's the same as Southern High has to do now going out to Swann Park."

Under Mitchell, Dunbar has won two titles in three state championship appearances and reached the state semifinals in each of his five years. Dunbar won the 2A crown over Fort Hill in 1994 and the 3A version over Churchill of Montgomery County in 1995. The win over Fort Hill made Dunbar Baltimore's first state champ.

Among Mitchell's top players have been two-time All-Metro selection Ali Culpepper (Syracuse) and two-time Sun Player of the Year Tommy Polley (Florida State).

"We talked after [Saturday's game], and it was about preparing for next season," said Mitchell's five-year assistant Ben Eaton. "This is the first I've heard about it [stepping down]."

Mitchell would leave behind a talented group of athletes, including second-team All-Metro picks Chris Barnes (wide receiver), Tyrel Henderson (defensive back) and running back Thomas James, who rushed for 10 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards this season.

"It would be great if he stayed, not just for me, but for the program in the future," said Barnes, a junior. "But if he feels that's what's best for him, then I guess that's what he needs to do."

Though Dunbar reached the state title game, it was a frustrating season for Mitchell. The Poets got off to a 1-4 start. He fired assistants Eaton and Anthony Clark midway through the season, citing "philosophical differences." Eaton returned two games later, but Clark did not.

In preparing for Saturday's final, Mitchell saw a glimpse of the kind of facilities he covets. He watched a tape of Fort Hill he borrowed from Hereford coach Steve Turnbaugh.

"When I went to Hereford, I saw their weight room and their lighted football facility," Mitchell said. "That's going to make it easier to keep a kid motivated."

Pub Date: 12/01/97

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