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First-and-10 on why area drops I-A pass

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The fax machine will be humming at Dallas Carter High tomorrow, when that Texas power could have as many as eight players committing to play Division I-A football.

The start of the letter of intent signing period will be a tad quieter in the Baltimore area. If they're lucky, the area's 82 football-playing high schools will produce five players worthy of Division I-A scholarships.

It's an improvement over last year, which represented a low for football prospects in the area. City's Terrence Suber, who started in the Wake Forest secondary, was the only player coming out of an area high school last year who had the academic background and athletic skills necessary to get a I-A scholarship.

Has Baltimore become a wasteland for football talent?

Even after the addition of Poly, Baltimore's best, why was the area shut out in the state tournament?

Why has the area gone 15 years without producing a Division I-A quarterback?

Why did the area have only two dozen scholarship players in I-A programs last season, fewer than half of them starters?

With apologies to David Letterman, here's The Sun's Top 10 List of Reasons It's Going To Be Another Quiet Letter of Intent Day in the Baltimore Area.

10. Fewer opportunities

Division I-A scholarships have dwindled since the days when Bear Bryant could stockpile talent at Alabama or Johnny Majors could turn around Pitt with huge recruiting classes.

The NCAA instituted scholarship limits in 1973. In 1994-95, I-A football programs will be limited to 85 scholarships, and the most they can award in a single recruiting class is 25.

The area still is sending players to Division I-AA and II, but are the Ivy League and historically black colleges playing the caliber of football they were in the 1960s?

9. Fewer players

When George Young, the general manager of the New York Giants, coached City's powerhouse teams in the 1960s, the school had an all-male enrollment that exceeded 4,000. Two years ago, City's freshman class included 85 boys.

Baltimore's population dropped from 905,000 in 1970 to 736,000 in 1990, but it added three high schools in the same time. Fewer students at more schools led to less competition for playing time.

In the mid-to-late 1960s, City had that cast of thousands and Tom Gatewood, who would be an All-American end at Notre Dame, but the Knights didn't rout everyone. In 1966, Edmondson had a graduating class of 1,001, including a Penn State-bound running back in Charlie Pittman. Douglass was as proud as any city school, especially when it trotted out Ray Chester.

"The first-stringers back then were being pushed every day," said George Petrides, who played for City in 1966 and now coaches the Knights. "We had 33 players on our unbeaten team in 1992. I'll tease the kids, and say, 'Mr. Young would never let me do that,' but there's some truth to it."

8. Higher standards

Many prospects were locked out when the NCAA introduced academic eligibility standards for incoming freshmen in 1986.

The state's plan to take over Douglass and Patterson points up the challenge for city coaches to find eligible players and field a team, but county schools such as Perry Hall and Severna Park, which send a high percentage of their students to college, also have had prospects who don't meet the NCAA standards.

Junior colleges channel players with academic deficiencies to Division I-A, but after Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford dropped the sport, Montgomery-Rockville was left as the state's only two-year college playing football.

7. County played catch-up

More than a quarter of the area's teams are part of the Baltimore County system, which didn't introduce football until 1967. That was only seven years before the first state tournament, and seven years after Montgomery County, which has 28 state titles, was turning out the likes of Mike Curtis.

Baltimore County was unable to dip into its own past to find coaches, and the county still lags in coaches' pay and facilities. Before summer pay is included, Montgomery coaches get $5,000, compared with $1,530 in Baltimore County.

However, Baltimore County at least has produced recent state champions.

The Liberty Road schools, Randallstown and Milford Mill, won state titles in 1984, '87 and '90. Wilde Lake won three straight titles in 1990-92, but the rest of Howard County has zero state titles since 1974. Anne Arundel County has gone 15 straight years without a title. Carroll County never has had a state championship team.

6. Friday night dark

Newcomers to Baltimore wonder why Friday night games aren't the event here that they are elsewhere in the United States.

Twenty years ago, a handful of area high schools had lighted fields. Now, the 25 football-playing public high schools in Anne Arundel, Carroll and Harford counties all have lights, but there are only six other on-campus, lighted fields in the area.

"I went to scout Northwestern at Fort Hill [in Cumberland] in the early 1980s," Gilman coach Sherman Bristow said. "Twenty minutes before the game, there are 8,000 people in the stands and 200 non-football playing kids on the field -- band, color guard, majorettes. That's in addition to the 75 players who dressed for the game.

"Friday night lights is part of the culture in other areas. The intensity of the football [here] isn't the same."

5. Funding

Because it doesn't have a working scoreboard and it's difficult to charge admission and control the crowd there, City couldn't have been host to a state playoff game last season.

Until 1983, when it started an arrangement with Catonsville and Dundalk community colleges, Baltimore County was in a similar situation. Four county schools now havelights, but four rows of bleachers are considered a luxury at most of the county's schools. Last season was the first in which Baltimore County didn't play any Friday afternoon games.

"When you play on Friday afternoon with few spectators, that's more or less a glorified intramural program," said Ron Belinko, an administrator in the county.

In a city school system in which students are using textbooks printed in 1973, coaches aren't complaining about funding. Even when programs take the initiative, however, they're discouraged.

"We'd love to have a fresh-soph team," Poly coach Augie Waibel said. "We have the equipment and we have the coaches, but the city won't let us have a team because of the insurance."

4. The MSA fold

The Maryland Scholastic Association has dissolved, and with it the A Conference, which included the best teams from the city and the area's prep schools.

The city schools like having a shot at a state title, but when the A Conference split, schedules were weakened and teams weren't challenged as much. The situation could improve for everyone if the state playoff qualifying system, which many coaches say discourages them from playing a strong schedule, is overhauled.

3. Not the only game in town

You've heard the joke about there being two sports in Texas: football and spring football. This area's interests always have been broader. Just look at the 1988 All-Metro team: tight end Evers Burns plays for the Sacramento Kings in the NBA, and defensive back Scott Bacigalupo is the best goalie in college lacrosse.

Until Dunbar beat DeMatha in 1973, basketball recruiters would drive directly from Philadelphia to Washington without stopping in Baltimore. There are approximately 9,000 I-A football scholarships compared with about 4,000 Division I basketball scholarships, but the area has twice as many Division I basketball players as it does I-A football players.

Coaches discount the notion that the soccer boom has affected football, but it clearly grabs kids at an earlier age and holds on to many.

Where else does lacrosse, and not football, draw bigger crowds? With the exception of an occasional Vaughn Hebron, the Catholic high schools have stopped turning out I-A football prospects, but they're putting out more scholarship lacrosse players than ever.

Lacrosse's popularity is one reason the area never fostered a link between football and track and field. In California, Florida and Texas, wide receivers are also hurdlers and nose tackles shot-putters.

"If you can't run, you can't play football," said Doug Duvall, the Wilde Lake coach, who expects to have six players on I-A scholarships next season. "Not enough people here emphasize the correlation between the two sports."

2. The Irsay factor

In 1964, a kid in Bel Air or Hamilton or Glen Burnie could tell you that Vogel, Parker, Szymanski, Sandusky and Preas played on the Baltimore Colts offensive line. Jack Kent Cooke would have us believe that local adolescents grew as familiar with the Hogs.

Forget it.

How many fathers here, swayed by the Midnight Flight of 1984, have stopped steering their sons to football?

1. It's cyclical

It was only three years ago that the area produced 11 I-A signings, and Maryland's Class of 1991, fed by 157 high schools, beat Pennsylvania and its 540 in the Big 33 game. It wasn't that long ago that Baltimore County was turning out NFL players Sean Landeta, Brian Jozwiak, Carlton Bailey and Brian Jordan.

The coaches say that high school football here will rebound.

AREA'S STATE CHAMPS

Year .. .. .. ..School .. .. .. ..Class

1974 .. .. .. ..Howard ... .. .. ..2A

1975 .. .. .. ..Arundel .. .. .. ..4A

1975 .. .. .. .Joppatowne .. .. ...1A TC 1978 .. .. .. ..Annapolis .. .. ...4A

1978 .. .. ...Havre de Grace .. ...1A

1981 .. .. ...Havre de Grace .. ...1A

1984 .. .. .. .Randallstown .. .. .4A

1985 .. .. .. ..Wilde Lake .. .. ..2A

1986 .. .. .. Havre de Grace .. ...1A

1987 .. .. .. .Milford Mill .. .. .1A

1990 .. .. ...Randallstown .. .. ..4A

1990 .. .. .. .Wilde Lake .. .. .. 2A

1991 .. .. .. .Wilde Lake .. .. ...1A

1992 .. .. .. .Wilde Lake .. .. ...1A

TITLES BY COUNTY

County .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Titles

Montgomery .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..28

Allegany .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..9

Prince George's .. .. .. .. .. .. .8

Howard .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .5

Washington .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...5

Charles .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...4

Frederick .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .4

Harford .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...4

Baltimore .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .3

Wicomico .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..3

Anne Arundel .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .2

Kent .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...2

Worcester .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .2

Dorchester .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...1

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