Girls sports teams from 30 private and church-affiliated schools belonging to the Association of Independent Schools and the Catholic League will compete in one new league starting next fall.
Depending on the sport, teams in the new Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland will be grouped in as many as three competitively balanced conferences. Not all the schools offer the same sports.
Teams in both current leagues have been playing an increasing number of cross-over games in recent years, resulting in some of the most competitive girls athletics in Maryland.
All sports currently sanctioned by either league will be included.
Little will change in the day-to-day operations of each sport, said Sister Janet Thiel OSF, principal of Catholic High and the IAAM's newly-elected president.
The primary change will come in the league structure, which for the first time will see heads of the schools serve on a general council and board of governors.
Athletic directors, through steering committees, will continue handling day-to-day operations and setting regulations pertaining to each sport.
"For the heads of schools, it's a whole different world," said Sister Janet. "How many basketball games are played in a season is not a concern, but if something happens at a basketball game that results in legal action, we want the legal safeguards in place."
For Sister Janet, this became clear last year. After a couple of incidents were worked out within the Catholic League, she said, she realized that if an incident were to escalate into legal action, member schools lacked safeguards.
"In today's society, with the elevation of play, the availability of scholarships, and how far women's sports have come, we weren't protecting ourself enough with our organizational structure," she said. "It has nothing to do with athletic play. This is meant to protect everyone -- students, coaches, athletic directors, heads of schools."
Sister Janet, who led a 10-month study on combining the two leagues that led earlier this month to agreement on the new league, said preserving each league's flavor was also a concern.
"Both leagues are very rich in history, and each has wonderful aspects of its own," said Beth Ahearn, AIS executive director. "In everything we've talked about, there has been a lot of give and take. It's not like one or the other is being thrown out the window. We're coming together for the betterment of the girls."
Mary Ella Marion, Catholic League president and Mercy athletic director, agreed.
"We've tried to keep the rivalries, so you don't lose that touch," said Marion, of such annual events as the 74-year-old Bryn Mawr-Roland Park field hockey game and the 32-year-old IND-Mercy basketball game.
"What we're trying to do is not disrupt that but add to it in terms of the diversity of teams you're going to be playing. You're going to see the best competition in the area. The possibilities are endless. It's going to be exciting."
The 30 private and church-affiliated schools involved in forming the new Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, listed alphabetically:
Archbishop Spalding, Arlington Baptist, Baltimore Lutheran, Beth Tfiloh, Bryn Mawr, John Carroll, Catholic High, Chapelgate, Friends.
Garrison Forest, Glenelg Country School, Institute of Notre Dame, Key School, Maryvale, McDonogh, Mercy, Mount de Sales, Notre Dame Prep, Oldfields, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Park
Roland Park, St. Frances, St. John's at Prospect Hall, St. Mary's, St. Paul's, St. Timothy's, Seton Keough, Severn, Towson Catholic.
Pub Date: 12/24/98