Local colleges should be in a playoff here


Mount St. Mary's sports information director Dave Reeder is saying something radical that makes sense to me.

"The NCAA ought to throw out every conference alignment in the country and start over," Reeder said as he contemplated the schedule for postseason basketball tournaments.

The whole thing looks nutty to me, too.

Here's Loyola College, finishing an erratic yet somehow promising season, and what are the Greyhounds going to do? They'll go off to Albany, N.Y., this weekend for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.

Towson State is once again favored to win the tournament in a league -- the East Coast Conference -- that is falling apart, which has led TSU to apply to the North Atlantic Conference. There, Towson would play such natural rivals as Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Mount St. Mary's, a school with a proud basketball tradition, can't play in any postseason tournament because it hasn't been in its conference, the Northeast, long enough.

To me, the solution is obvious. In fact, they had it right 30 years ago when all the local colleges were in the old Mason-Dixon Conference. Interest was never higher, and nobody had to ride a bus 600 miles to play in its own conference.

"Everybody says that except the athletic directors," says Reeder, who went to Bucknell, worked at Western Maryland and did public relations for the East Coast Conference. "The ADs get paranoid. They think other schools are getting in athletes they couldn't get in school. They question academic standards elsewhere."

What a treat it would be to have all the local Division I schools in a tournament next weekend at the Towson Center or Reitz Arena. All I know is it's a screwed-up system when the NCAA allows UNLV to play in its championship tournament but not Maryland or Mount St. Mary's.

* There's a football player coming here March 12 who has won the biggest individual award in the game -- the Heisman Trophy. He'll be at Martin's West to receive a courage award at the Ed Block banquet.

The player is Tim Brown, late of Notre Dame, now wide receiver-punt returner with the Los Angeles Raiders.

Winner of the Heisman in '87, Brown led the Raiders in receiving with 43 catches and made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner in '88. He tore knee ligaments in the first game in '89 but came back last season and led Los Angeles in punt returns.

* Who comes to the stadium to watch the Orioles?

According to Lee Communications, which has done a demographic study for the O's, 25 percent of the fans arrive from the Washington area, 10 percent from Southern Pennsylvania. Half are college educated or better and two-thirds are between the ages of 25 and 44. One-third have median household incomes of $50,000.

Makes Oriole fans sound like a bunch of yuppies. No wonder "Wild Bill" Hagy took a hike.

* One of the keys to Johns Hopkins' rejoining the elite of college lacrosse this year is the condition of senior attackman Matt Panetta.

Panetta was first-team All-America as a sophomore, then injured his ankle in fall ball as a junior and last spring he fairly hobbled along. A one-on-one player who hobbles is severely handicapped, but Panetta made honorable mention All-America anyway.

A week ago everybody in the Blue Jays' camp was elated. Panetta was back, they said. If not all the way back, then 98 percent. Then Panetta, horsing around with his roommate, separated his right shoulder. He sat out the scrimmages last week with UMBC and Penn and is questionable for the opener here Saturday with Princeton, the team that upset Hopkins and knocked the Jays out of the NCAA tournament last year.

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