The majority of the 80-plus players participating in Friday night's D.C. Coaches Interhigh All-Star football game will be vying for something that has eluded them: a college scholarship.
Only 15 members of the West Division's 45-man roster have signed with colleges. Approximately 17 of the East's current 50-man team (before the final cuts) are similarly committed.
The majority of the graduated seniors who will take the RFK Stadium field Friday are hoping that, somewhere in the stands, a coach or scout will be impressed enough to spend his last scholarship or two.
It's an uphill climb for the majority. Well-publicized stars, including all-Met quarterback Steve Mitchell of Dunbar (Indiana) and running back Wayne Singleton of Theodore Roosevelt (Brown), could choose major institutions that desired their services. But those big schools have used their allotted scholarships early.
Failing to receive an offer from a glamor football college, many of the players put smaller schools the Cheyney States, Bowie States and Langstons - on hold, waiting an offer from schools with larger, better programs.
Trent Walters, assistant coach of Indiana who will be on hand for the game, summarizes the positions of larger schools, talking about the Indiana recruiting situation.
"We've filled our scholarship limit for this year," Walters said. "But there is always the chance that one or two of the players who have signed with us will change their minds or not pass the summer school courses they need to quality academically, and I'll have a spot to be filled."
But Walters, who recruits in this area for the Hoosiers, is not optimistic about the chance. His main reason for attending the game is observe Mitchell.
Mitchell chose Indiana because "they told me they would bring me along, help me develop further. Plus, it's a Big 10 school, competing in an excellent football conference." Mitchell follows in the steps of another former Dunbar quarterback, Cornelius Greene, formerly of Ohio State.
But the problem of most of the inner-city athletes, according to Walters, has been the lack of fundamentals learned in their short careers. And that is because their schools have smaller football budgets than private, Catholic and suburban schools.
Walter explained, "The inner-city schools have only one or two assistant coaches compared to six or seven at other high schools. They just dont' have the personnel who can spend time with a kid individually, helping him to develop fundamentals.
"The 30-man per yard scholarship limit has hurt the urban schools the worst. No longer can a major college take a chance on developing a kid who has raw talent only. There just aren't enough spots on the roster to take that risk."
Coach Dough Porter of Howard added, "The first opportunity an Interhigh player has for formalized training is in high school. In the Catholic school system, the kids start in the seventh grade. The continued repetition of training from that early start produces stronger, fundamentally sound players."
Porter added that of 12 Interhigh footballers that Howard wanted this year only four had the grades and SAT test scores to meet the school's entrance requirements. "We would like prospective recruits to take the SAT a year early, after their junior year. That way we could work with them, to hopefully see them improve the scores and their grades in their senior year, if necessary."
The University of Maryland sends letters each spring to every city coach, requesting the names and potential college-level players who will be seniors the next fall.
"We need the help of the coaches in this," says Gothard Lane, Maryland assistant coach. "Most of the coaches care enough, to respond, but some wait until the next winter to do so. This hurts the players. By then, we already have filled our quota of scholarships."
Lane says he believes Washington players were recruited as much as those of any other city. "There just are not enough scholarships to go around anymore," he concluded. "You used every city coach, requesting that you can't do it anymore."