Since taking over as executive secretary of the Maryland Public School Athletic Association three years ago, Ned Sparks, a former Bethesda resident and all-Met center at St. John's, has done much to modernize the state's scholastic sports.
In the past, Maryland has always been compared to Virginia and found wanting. Since Sparks succeeded John Molesworth, though, that gap has been narrowing. Part of the reason is "Scout," a quarterly newsletter that is distributed statewide to coaches, administrators and the media.
Features in the first issue include training tips, background on ticket pricing, views on the controversy concerning academic eligibility rules for athletes and a host of other items. Perhaps best of all, Sparks has even found a sponsor who'll foot the bill.
Among his other accomplishments are arranging cable television broadcasts of state finals in three sports and placing the football championships at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium.
For the second straight year, the Class AA, A, B and C championships at Byrd will be broadcast by six Maryland Public Broadcasting System stations Nov. 23-24.
The boys basketball finals at Cole Field House won't be televised this winter, because the early March dates will conflict with a fund-raising drive. The six stations, based in Annapolis, Salisbury, Hagerstown, Oakland, Frederick and Baltimore, instead will broadcast the state indoor track championships Feb. 19-21 in Baltimore. WETA-TV-26 in Washington has no plans to show these events. The girls softball finals will also be broadcast this spring.
Given more time, Sparks plans further upgrading of Maryland sports and increased communications among local jurisdictions.
Night football might require more security, but there's no doubt of its popularity with local fans. More than 7,000 crowded Friendly's stands Thursday night to see the Patriots play archrival Oxon Hill.
"That was the biggest crowd in the school's history," said the Prince George's area coordinator of athletics, Francis Thomas. "Playing at night allows parents and other working people to see games that they couldn't during the day. Besides, playing on Saturday afternoons means going up against the colleges."
Seven Montgomery County high schools play night football and the county supervisor of athletics, Bill Kyle, paints a dramatic picture.
"On the average, playing at night means twice the gate that you'd normally get for a day game," he said. That's important, especially with the soaring costs of athletic equipment."
Where have all the Peary football coaches gone?
The Rockville school closed in June, but its coaches have remained a part of the Montgomery County high school scene, just as their former players have fit well into teams at Rockville and Wheaton.
Former varsity head coach John Cino is an assistant at Richard Montgomery. Former assistants Dutch Hahn and Jerry Seidman are at Northwood, Tim Evans has moved to Walter Johnson and Terry Kilpatrick coaches at Wheaton.
Ed Burlas, Peary's only athletic director, is assistant athletic director at Sherwood.
It's called coed soccer in Prince George's County, but only 14 of more than 400 players are girls. That's an average of fewer than one per team. Largo leads with four female players, followed by Friendly with three and Central with two.
Five other schools have one and while 12 county "coed" teams have no female players.