Montgomery-Rockville's football team is suffering through an 0-8 season this fall, a dramatic turnaround from the 20-9 record of the past three years. It's a reflection of a clash of philosophies regarding football's role on the Rockville campus.
Like all two-year colleges, Montgomery-Rockville's program is plagued by constant player turnover. Only seven members of last year's 6-4 team returned for the 1982 season. However, this year's record cannot be blamed solely on inexperience.
Montgomery-Rockville football has fallen quickly since Coach Steve Wilson was fired by the school administration last summer. His dismissal followed an incident involving out-of-state players and an unpaid $1,700 bill at a local hotel. School officials said at the time he was not fired for that reason alone. They also said they wanted to have a full-time faculty member coaching football.
For the most part, Wilson was dismissed because of a difference with the administration in priorities regarding football. There was a booster club that raised thousands of dollars for the program. There were many out-of-state players.
And Wilson was instrumental in Montgomery-Rockville's joining the highly competitive Coastal Conference, a league that includes several schools offering scholarships and dormitories. Montgomery-Rockville has neither, and school administrators did not want a big-time program.
"We made the right decision absolutely," Associate Dean Cliff Wood said of Wilson's dismissal. "We now have a coach with a better understanding of what football is at MC; what we're trying to do with our athletic program on our limited budget.
"We want a football program we can afford within our resources ($7,900 budget). We want to play teams similar to us, nonresidential schools which don't give scholarships, not the schools of the Coastal Conference. Mr. Wilson's concept of what football should be was very different. We're in the process of carefully evaluating our future schedules."
While discussions about the future continue, the outmanned Knights have to contend with the toughest schedule they've faced. The players and coaches of '82 are caught between their overmatched present and an uncertain future.
Sophomore linebacker George Ralli, for one, is not happy with the administration. "I feel angry and confused," Ralli said.
"I came to school to play ball."
New Coach Phil Martin, the chairman of the television-radio department, says he wants to win as badly as Wilson did, but that he understands Montgomery's situation.
"Our problem is that our schedule is over our head," Martin said. "We can't be competitive against schools like Chowan (N.C.), which gives 30 scholarships, have 165 guys out for the team and a squad of 112."
Martin has a squad of 31.
Many players say they are still enjoying the game, if not the circumstances. "Coach Wilson was trying to recruit and trying to make us a feeder school for Maryland or Delaware like other schools do," Sean Leonard said. "He was trying to make the program better. If you don't want a big-time program, why have one at all?"