21-team league is likely to become '03-04 reality

Final vote due in March on proposal that merges 2 leagues, adds 3 schools

High Schools

November 25, 2001|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In a long-discussed move, schools from Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties likely will form a 21-team super conference to begin play in the 2003-2004 school year, according to several members of a committee exploring the idea.

The league would combine current members of the eight-team Central Maryland Conference and the 10-team Monocacy Valley Athletic League, as well as add three new schools that either already will have begun or are slated to begin varsity play that year.

The motion will be up for a final vote in March, and so far has received overwhelming support.

"We're not official yet, but we're definitely moving in the direction of the CMC joining the MVAL," said Leo Totten, Francis Scott Key's athletic director and a committee member.

Both leagues elected to move forward on the plan in separate votes Nov. 13 and 14. Totten and five school officials on the joint committee, chaired by Urbana assistant principal Perry Baker, have started proposals for league alignments, by-laws and a possible schedule.

The move will have an especially large impact in Carroll County, where Liberty, North Carroll, South Carroll and Westminster are members of the CMC, while Francis Scott Key is a member of the MVAL. Because of league commitments, Key plays its fellow county teams only sporadically during the regular season.

"It's something that's probably been talked about for 15 or 18 years," said South Carroll athletic director Jim Horn, another committee member. "We've talked about it and talked about it as long as I've been here. It's nice to now see it coming to bear fruit."

What made it possible, said Horn, was the proposed inclusion of three new schools - Carroll County's Century High, which opened this academic year; Winters Mill High, scheduled to open next year; and, a new central Frederick County high school that is slated to open by 2003.

The additions would allow for three seven-team divisions, more than likely grouped according to school size.

Reduced athletic budgets also played a role, said Horn. Currently, schools in Carroll County often travel to surrounding counties to fill early-season schedules.

"The new schools have made a big difference, and the [shrinking] budgets in all the counties is driving this somewhat," Horn said. "[The new league] would keep us closer to home rather than going into Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County and moving all over."

But with the CMC composed of larger Class 3A and 4A schools, and the MVAL made up of smaller Class 1As and 2As, some coaches wonder about the change.

"I like the conference we're in," Westminster football coach Scott Tobias said. "If we'll be playing [the larger schools in the new conference], how's it going to be any different than what we already have? We're going to have to pick up some games against private schools. It's very tough finding games [against 4A schools]."

In the state's football points system that determines playoff spots, large schools actually lose ground often by beating smaller opponents. Currently, the only other Class 4A schools in the proposed league would be current CMC members Frederick and Thomas Johnson.

For other coaches, another issue could be a potential lack of scheduling flexibility.

"That's what I dislike," Liberty volleyball coach Dave Trumbo said. "I want to go and play Towson. I want to play Glenelg. We scrimmaged both those teams this year and it taught us a lot. I felt like that was a key in our season. If we're not allowed to play out of conference, I wouldn't like that."

Many coaches, however, think the move is long overdue.

"For us, I think this is a nice step forward," Totten said. "I think with the county schools, we'll get bigger gates and there will be more intra-county rivalries."

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