State football title games slated for Ravens Stadium

UM conflict spurs move

games are Nov. 29-30

October 03, 2002|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

The state high school football championship games will be played Nov. 29 and 30 at Ravens Stadium, marking the first time a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association final has been held in Baltimore City.

"Knowing you have the opportunity to play in your own back yard, particularly at Ravens Stadium, that's certainly going to be an incentive to city kids," said MPSSAA president Bob Wade, who is Baltimore City's coordinator of athletics. "Making it there is going to be a special moment for any city kid."

The move to Ravens Stadium was necessitated because of a scheduling conflict with the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium, where, except for two years, the state championships have been held since 1982. The Terps play host to Wake Forest Nov. 30.

"They just made 9,000 kids very happy. Wouldn't you be happy if you had a chance to play on the same field as the pros?" said Oakland Mills football coach Ken Hovet, whose team won the Class 1A state title in 1998. "It's exciting and whoever is responsible should be commended. It enhances the reputation of high school football in the state and will add to the quality of play."

MPSSAA executive director Ned Sparks began searching for a new location in August, when the conflict was discovered. The primary criterion was finding a stadium where all four games - two on each day - could be played.

Sparks, who approached the Ravens, said he also met with officials from Towson University and Morgan State. He said the Washington Redskins "had no interest," and that attempts to meet with Navy officials were unsuccessful.

"This is a great opportunity for everybody," Sparks said. "People can come to the stadium for a high school price."

Sparks did say the general admission ticket price will be higher than last year's $5.

"We haven't determined what that will be," Sparks said. "But I can say this: I went to the movies last week and the price will be cheaper than what I paid for the movies."

Sparks also said fans will have to pay to park at the stadium lots. "We would expect a token fee," he said.

Game times each day will be 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and tickets will be good for both games that day. The order of games by classifications has not been determined.

Sparks said the Ravens "were very fair" in negotiating a price, and he did not rule out the championships being played in Baltimore again.

"I would not characterize this as a stopgap measure. Both sides are amenable to continuing the relationship," Sparks said. "We'll play the state championships, look at how things went, study it, and then make a decision."

Said Kevin Byrne, Ravens vice president of public and community relations: "We are very interested at not only hosting it this year but, if they are interested, in future years. We think that would be great for the players around the state to get a chance to play where the NFL players play."

Sparks said the MPSSAA does not anticipate losing money on the deal.

"We're not going to do something to shoot ourselves in the foot," said Sparks, adding that "the [state] association has a million-dollar budget. Our biggest source of income is gate receipts at state championship contests."

The championships have twice been moved in the past, most recently to neutral sites in 1994 during renovations to Byrd Stadium. Dunbar coach Ben Eaton was an assistant to Stanley Mitchell that year when the Poets beat Fort Hill at South Hagerstown High - a 90-mile trip for Dunbar - for the first of their two straight state titles.

Dunbar athletic director Barbara Allen was delighted upon hearing that the games were moved to Ravens Stadium, a venue 10 minutes from her school. Dunbar has reached three state title games.

"This is where a lot of the local NFL heroes to inner-city kids are. To play in a facility where you have pros that play, you're moving it up a level," Eaton said. "This is great news, to be able to provide this opportunity as motivation for the kids. This is like icing on the cake."

Basketball at Comcast

The MPSSAA is close to finalizing a deal with the University of Maryland to play the 2003 boys basketball championships at the new Comcast Center. The championships have been played at Cole Field House.

"While there has been no contract, we have had very positive discussions with the University of Maryland," Sparks said.

Sun staff writers Rick Belz and Brent Jones contributed to this article.

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