Maryland athletic association director Ned Sparks says it's time for his governing body to simply say yes or no to expansion of its state football playoffs.
"This has been such an elongated process, but now we've shaken out every plan there is to have," Sparks said shortly after leaving yesterday's meeting of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's Board of Control, in which two expansion proposals received "feedback."
The proposals, to be further revised in the state football committee's January meeting, could go into effect for the fall of 2003 if they pass a vote in the control board's April 25 meeting, which determines changes in fall and winter tournaments.
"This has been a chance to put all of the stuff out there so that people will be well-informed and know about it when it comes time to vote. There were some opinions expressed -- some of them divergent from the two plans," Sparks said. "But now we really need to put some focus on a particular plan and see if we can live with it. We've got to come together, once and for all, and say, `Hey, here's the plan, vote it up or down.' "
One plan, introduced in November, calls for raising from 32 to 64 the number of teams eligible for the postseason and adds a week to the end of a 13-game season -- one more game than the present format.
The other plan, introduced in October, seeks to raise from four to six the number of classifications -- each of which would produce an eight-team playoff field -- while leaving the present 13-week season unaffected.
"With six divisions, you couldn't have all of the finals in one [location], and with an extended playoff the other way, we'd be playing this week, and just look outside," said Sparks, referring to the snow on the ground.
"You can find fault in any situation, but if there's a commitment to expand the playoffs, then get on board with the plan."
Said football committee chairman John Cox: "People looked at the pluses and minuses. We'll take the proposals we put on the floor today and come up with probably one, maybe two final recommendations to go on the floor for a vote in April."
The control board also released its revised regional alignments and reclassifications of schools that will go into effect in the fall.
Notable changes include Baltimore County's Dulaney rising from Class 3A North to 4A North with other county and Baltimore City schools. Frederick County's Thomas Johnson, last year's 4A basketball finalist and state baseball champion, moved into 4A North from the Anne Arundel County-dominated 4A East.
Former 4A schools Mervo and C. Milton Wright dropped into the 3A North with former 2A schools Towson and Catonsville. Joppatowne, a 2A football runner-up in 2001, dropped into the 1A North.
The alignments also revealed the names of three of Baltimore City's five newest schools -- W. E. B. DuBois, Samuel L. Banks and Digital Harbor. All are Class 1A schools. DuBois and Banks were two of the four schools into which Northern High was divided in June after 35 years.
Harbor, presently housed within Southern High in Cherry Hill, will replace Southern "after its present 10th graders graduate and Southern is phased out," according to city athletic director Bob Wade.
In other news, Sparks revealed that the state basketball finals and semifinals will be moved this year from the University of Maryland's Cole Field House to the school's newly built Comcast Center.