Schools group willing to alter tourney draws; Review of open format OK, not old way's return


The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association is willing to consider amending its controversial state tournament format as early as this fall.

Ned Sparks, MPSSAA executive director, said the 3-year-old open format would be reviewed if member schools "can come up with a plan that's workable for all schools."

But a revision cannot be a "reversion to the old point system," said Baltimore County athletics coordinator Ron Belinko, a former MPSSAA president and chairman of a committee assigned to research possibilities.

The open format is disliked by some because tournament pairings are made by lottery, ignoring teams' regular-season records.

Sparks said frustration exists because the blind draw can pit two dominant teams against each other in the first round for what easily could have been a region title game. And last winter, Forest Park, which won just two regular season games, got hot in the playoffs and won the Class 1A state boys basketball title.

The open system, implemented in 1995-96, abolished a point system under which victories over large schools were worth more than wins over small schools.

"There are still coaches who would like to consider at least separating or seeding the top two or four teams," said Sparks, who sent letters to each of the association's 178 schools. "If a viable option can be produced, the executive council would look favorably on experimenting with it next year."

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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