Sanctions are ruled out in `fiasco' of indoor meet

Sorting out violations said all but impossible

High Schools

Track and field

March 16, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

So many state regulations were broken by so many people at an indoor track meet in Prince George's County last weekend that the director of the state organization that oversees public school high school athletic events has decided not to issue sanctions to individuals or coaches.

"The more I investigated, the more crazy it became," said Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association about the Nike Indoor Classic held at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex on March 9-10 in Landover. "It was a fiasco."

According to Sparks, violations at the meet included underclass students participating out of season, students performing on Sunday, being coached by their high school coaches, using school names and wearing school uniforms.

In addition, he said some regulations of the National Federation of State High School Associations were disregarded, including the no-uniform rule and the rule against payment of transportation costs in the form of plane fares for some athletes.

And the event also flirted with other violations. It billed itself as an unofficial national championship. Under national federation rules, no high school athlete is allowed to compete for a national title.

"Kids don't pay any attention to the unofficial part," Sparks said.

Violations were so widespread, Sparks said it would be impossible to track them and all of the violators down.

"I keep getting conflicting information from coaches," Sparks said. "We'll never find out what really happened."

Sanctions might have ranged from students being declared ineligible for the spring sports season to letters of censure for coaches.

"I'm concerned that our coaches turned a blind eye to our regulations, or else don't know them," said Sparks. "You think at least one of them would have thought to ask."

The meet director, Michael Byrnes of Culpeper, Va., defended the competition.

He said it was held between indoor and outdoor seasons and that student-athletes do not come under state jurisdiction during that time.

Sparks said that's not the case in Maryland.

"We're here to provide a service to the kids and the sport," Byrnes said. "It's up to the coaches to understand their state rules. It's impossible for us to know them all because they differ from state to state. It's a hodge-podge."

He said the entry forms clearly say that an athlete should check with his or her athletic director about what to wear.

"It's not to our advantage to flaunt the rules," said Byrnes, president of the nonprofit National Scholastic Sports Foundation that he said promotes track events throughout the country.

"We've been running a meet since 1984, and have never had a single problem with eligibility, and we want to keep it that way."

This was the second year the event was held in Landover.

Spectators were charged $15 per day, or $25 for a two-day pass. Entry fees were $30 per event and $95 for relay teams.

Byrnes said there were about 1,500 entrants from 40 to 45 states.

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