FINE WEEK FOR SPORTS, BUT SPORTSMANSHIP TOOK A BEATING

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Add a few forfeits tagged on the Old Mill tennis team Friday, and you could say it's been a pretty interesting week in county sports.

Maybe not as interesting as ageless Nolan Ryan throwing a seventh no-hitter, Rickey Henderson stealing No. 939 and a 19-inning game in Milwaukee, but it was interesting locally.

It definitely was a busy week for Paul Rusko, the county coordinator of physical education, and I sure hope nothing happened last night.

There was more excitement in the office with the rule books than on the field. It seems people have a lot of trouble following rules.

Rusko capped his busy week, which included two suspensions and acontroversial replay of a game, by advising the Old Mill tennis teamthat it had to forfeit four matches for violating the ladder rule.

The ladder rule, instituted about five years ago, says that each team must list boys and girls singles players as 1-2-3, and those players have to play No. 1 position in doubles.

The idea is to keep teams from stacking their lineups.

"Yes, we will forfeit four matchesbecause of a coach's mistake, nothing intentional, but just something inadvertent," said Old Mill athletic director Jim Dillon in confirming the four forfeits Friday.

Old Mill's team record goes from 8-2to 4-6, but the forfeits will not affect the seedings of the individual players in this week's county tournament.

"If there is anything good to come out of it, it's that the kids don't lose their seedings and get individual losses tacked on their records," said Dillon, who said the losses only count toward the team record.

Old Mill forfeits its 8-1 win over North County and 7-2 victories over Annapolis, Broadneck and Meade. The Patriots of veteran coach Randy Stevens alsolost to Severna Park, 5-4, and Arundel, 7-2.

"I didn't check the paperwork and erred by having a person playing in the wrong place andit was a violation," said Stevens, who first had hoped "to see that particular match questioned forfeited but not the overall team win."

He had adjusted his girls' ladder, but not the boys at the appropriate time. At the beginning of the season, teams listed their ladders, then on April 16, they could adjust them.

"Randy made the changes on the girls, but not the boys. He thought he had made it," said Dillon. "The only problem I have with the rule is that kids come on as the season goes, and some play singles better than others. And some play doubles better than others."

Stevens agrees somewhat, yet seesa need for the rule.

"With a big program such as ours, the laddercould change every week, but you're only allowed one change," said Stevens. "The purpose of the rule is to make some people know where the strength is. I can see justification for the rule."

Stevens saidhe was informed of the violation the day after his team played Broadneck Monday. Dillon brought it to his attention.

"We don't run a country club but rather a top-notch program, and I think whoever turned us in is jealous of us . . . It was a typical administrative mistake. I overlooked it and I take the blame," Stevens said.

Then, Stevens said something about some sort of game played in the mind and heart.

"The inner game of tennis tells us that we know who really wonthose matches. They're forfeits, but we know we won," he said.

Actually, you didn't, Coach, but think what you want. The bottom line is, your team is 4-6, but at least the kids can salvage the county tournament.

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The Old Mill tennis forfeits came on the heels of the controversial replay of the originally forfeited girls lacrosse game between Southern and North County.

Southern head coach Linda Kilpatrick and one of her players were ejected on April 3, and when Kilpatrick didn't leave the field immediately, the officials called a forfeit.

Until last Monday everyone thought the game was history, butRusko overturned the officials' decision by following the girls lacrosse rule book that says that referees can not forfeit a game.

Much to their dismay, the North County girls were advised Monday that they would replay the game Wednesday in between games with Annapolis and Severna Park. The original game was tied 2-2 in the first half whenthe rhubarb broke out.

North County's girls wrote a letter of protest to Rusko, claiming they had been "mistreated" but routed Southern 15-9 in the replay. There were no problems.

Kilpatrick and the player ejected were suspended for the replay, and assistant coach Kim Brooks was suspended Monday "for harassment of an official" followinganother game, said Southern principal Don Buchanan.

Buchanan, by the way, called Friday to tell me that it was his fault that it took so long (26 days) to announce a replay and not Rusko's as I suggestedin Friday's column.

"Paul didn't cause the investigation to be solong, but rather I did because of my own personal investigation into the situation," said Buchanan. "He got my report last Friday (April26) and advised everyone Monday there would be a replay.

"I had to interview a lot of people and my investigation is what took so longand the reason for the delay."

That's fine and certainly admirable of Buchanan, but how long should such an investigation be allowed to go on?

There should be a time limit as to how long it should take and not be allowed to drag as this one did with the North County girls suffering the big shock three weeks later.

As for those who like to argue that the extra time is for the kids so they do not get hurt by a forfeit, you also must consider the other side that thinks it's over.

That was the case for the North County girls lacrosse team. It really wasn't fair to them.

I know investigations take a while and that principals such as Buchanan have other things to worry about besides sports controversies while running a school. However, three weeks is much too long and I believe -- along with many other coaches -- that Rusko should have disallowed the appeal.

In addition, I asked Buchanan if he still would have appealed had he found in his investigation that his coach and player were indeed a serious sportsmanship problem at the April 3 game.

Buchanan said, "I really find that tough to answer when you consider all Linda (Kilpatrick) has done for our school. She's the kind of coach who will take a team because we can't find anyone else to coach the girls."

His point is well-taken and, holding the highest respect for someone such as Kilpatrick, it's easy to be blind to any mistakes she might make.

As for her assistant, Brooks, all Buchanan would say Friday night is that she is suspended as girls lacrosse assistant to Kilpatrick and that tomorrow he will announce his final decision on her future as a coach at the school.

"I've interviewed all my people and made a decision," said Buchanan, conducting his latest investigation in record time -- one week instead of three.

One wonders what will be next in this year of "Sportsmanship, the No. 1 Priority."

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