In September, Maryland became the 46th state to form an organization of high school athletic directors. While the action was long overdue, the Free State might still be watching the other states from the sidelines if it weren't for the efforts of Bob Foster.

Foster, the athletic director at Paint Branch since the Burtonsville high school in Montgomery County opened up eight years ago, undertook the task at the request of the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association, of which Foster is vice president. Without quite realizing the mammouth proportions of gathering information on approximately 300 state public and private athletic programs, Foster accepted the job and found free time at a premium for the next several months.

"Somebody had to do it. They just looked at me," Foster explained. "Let's just say since I was asked to look into it, the thing snowballed into something bigger . . . it kept getting bigger and bigger and I was the focal point of it.

"We do have room for improvement in Maryland athletics. Everybody knows that," he added. "This is one thing that will help us - bring everybody together and let us communicate."

"If it hadn't been for him primarily, it wouldn't have gotten off the ground," said Bill Kyle, coordinator of physical education for Montgomery County. "I think it was a massive job, just alone in getting the names of who's the athletic director when many schools don't even have anybody by that title."

So Foster, with secretarial help from his wife Aleatha, gathered the addresses of the 300 state schools and sent letters advising of the plans to form the organization. In October, the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association held its first conference and the group has scheduled a May workshop in Ocean City.

After 18 months of work, Foster is beginning to see the first of his labor. At last count, 110 members had paid the $5 yearly dues, though Foster said he is constantly getting letters from athletic directors expressing interest. He said he hopes eventually to have full statewide membership.

While athletic directors in many states, such as Virginia, hold administrative positions, Maryland AD's have held a variety of positions, whose pay ranges from stipends of $2,200 (in Montgomery County) and up (in Baltimore County) to unpaid, unofficial jobs, such as in Prince George's County and other parts of the state.

The MSADA can help upgrade the position of the athletic director, Foster said. It could also help bring about an increase in the number of sports offered, or help develop better coaching methods or improved budgetary procedures.

"Just about now, the administration and county directors are beginning to realize they need someone to organize sports," Foster said. "Right now, we have 21 teams, including JV (at Paint Branch). So sometimes you have as many as 20 or 25 coaches, different people in one school. Before, you never had anyplace to focus on. Now the principals will be glad they have athletic directors to rely more and more on."

The spring workshop, set for Ocean City May 6-8, has scheduled a number of speakers on such topics as the role of athletic directors, record-keeping, budgeting, and the implications of interscholastic sports.

The fee for the three-day workshop, which is open to anyone, is $15, plus accommodations which can be arranged by the MSADA.