There won't be a Metro Classic this winter, but there will be another high school basketball event benefiting The Fuel Fund of Central Maryland, which helps needy area families pay their heating bills.
The Charm City/Big Apple Challenge, the result of a cooperative effort between the Bill Spotts Foundation and the Metro Classic Planning Committee, will be held Dec. 8 at the Baltimore Arena. A news conference is scheduled for Monday morning at City Hall.
Headlining the four-game event will be a meeting between defending national champion Dunbar and St. Raymond's (N.Y.), ranked No. 15 nationally by Street & Smith's. Other games include: Lake Clifton vs. Archbishop Molloy (N.Y.), Southern vs. Rice (N.Y.), and a girls game pitting Western against Walbrook.
Spotts, whose organization raised $30,000 for various charities from last year's two-day Charm City Classic at the Towson Center, said the Charm City/Big Apple Challenge was being planned last month when he was approached by a member of the Fuel Fund board of directors.
"We really didn't know what we would do with the money before the people from the Fuel Fund called us," Spotts said.
The Metro Classic had raised more than $300,000 for the Fuel Fund in 10 years, but it was canceled this season because of scheduling conflicts resulting from the city schools' entrance into the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
MPSSAA bylaws prohibit members from playing on Sunday, when the Maryland Scholastic Association basketball championships had annually been held.
Sunday was the only day the Baltimore Arena was available between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the state regional playoffs. MPSSAA rules state that league championship games must be played before the regional playoffs.
The Metro Classic Planning Committee sought an exemption from the Sunday ban, but its request was denied. Changes in format and venue were proposed as alternatives, but the committee opposed it.
The future of the Metro Classic is uncertain.
"Even though there is no Metro Classic this year, we hope to have one in the future," said Joni Scholwin, co-chair of the Metro Classic Planning Committee. "We hope to have this game and a Metro Classic."
Spotts called his organization's pairing with the Metro Classic Planning Committee "a natural match."
"The committee of the Metro Classic is a tremendous committee and determined not to let this thing end," said Spotts, an insurance executive. "For volunteers such as they are to do what they are doing is tremendous."
By coincidence, the Charm City/Big Apple Challenge will be played on National Fuel Fund Day during National Energy Assistance Week.
"We have the opportunity in Baltimore to be the No. 1 city in raising revenue for the Fuel Fund," Spotts said. "Our goal is to surpass the $39,000 raised in the last Metro Classic."
Tickets for the Charm City/Big Apple Challenge will go on sale Monday after the 11:45 news conference. Tickets purchased before Dec. 4 are $5; they are $9 after that.