Games postponed

backlog grows

Sniper fears could bring schools shortened season

High Schools

October 08, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

With just two weeks remaining before the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association holds its state playoff draw, yesterday's sniper-driven postponement of all athletic activity is straining the ability of some jurisdictions to reschedule events, leaving open the possibility that some games may never be played.

After the shooting of a 13-year-old boy in front of a Prince George's County middle school yesterday morning, every school district in the Baltimore metropolitan area prohibited all after-school athletic activity. Most jurisdictions had postponed activities Thursday.

School officials, suspecting that the latest shooting was related to seven random sniper shootings and six deaths that occurred last week in Montgomery County, the District of Columbia and Spotsylvania County, Va., by noon had called off games and practices. And their suspicions were confirmed by late afternoon when police determined that the latest shooting was connected.

"We understand that the safety of our students and the general public safety is the No. 1 priority," said Bob Wade, Baltimore City's athletic director. "But yes, it is becoming very difficult to find available dates to reschedule canceled contests."

Wade cited problems finding officials and buses to meet the increased demands.

"If this continues, you can look for shortened seasons," said Don Disney, Howard County's director of athletics. "We're running out of dates. Another cancellation today would be critical."

Howard yesterday postponed three varsity soccer games, four varsity field hockey games and three varsity volleyball games, as well as a full slate of five JV football games that had been postponed already from Thursday.

Smaller counties located farther away from Baltimore City, such as Carroll, are having fewer problems with rescheduling.

"It hasn't reached the crucial point yet," said Bruce Cowan, Carroll County supervisor of athletics. "At least none of the ADs have made that statement to me."

Anne Arundel County, the only Baltimore-area jurisdiction that did not postpone its events Thursday, is also having no problem with rescheduling.

Baltimore County also is experiencing no difficulties so far.

"Yesterday was a light schedule, fortunately," said Ron Belinko, Baltimore County's supervisor of athletics. "And it hasn't been a rainy fall, so we are not backed up. It's not a critical stage, just an inconvenience. If events continue it could become critical."

He said he didn't foresee the possible cancellation of the season unless the shootings accelerate.

"The latest shooting has accelerated the fear factor of parents," Belinko said. "With a child being shot on his way into school, it is now a whole different ballgame."

The Maryland Independent Athletic Association, which governs private school athletic activities, allowed individual schools to decide whether to postpone events last week, but has changed that policy.

"We like to allow our schools to be as autonomous as possible, but in cases like this [shooting], we'll no longer do that," said Rick Diggs, MIAA A Conference executive director. "We'll make decisions more on how other leagues and districts handle the situations."

Diggs said the MIAA's executive council will meet tomorrow to address its rules.

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