Anne Arundel County's decision to move the kickoff times for high school varsity football games up two hours, to 5:15 p.m., for the rest of the season has drawn criticism from several county football coaches.
The change, handed down by county public schools Superintendent Eric J. Smith on Tuesday, came after an accidental shooting midway through last Friday's game between Annapolis and Old Mill. The new start time -- and an increased security presence -- will begin with this week's games and will be continued for playoff games played in the county.
"We sprained our ankle, so we're cutting off our leg," said Arundel High Coach Chuck Markiewicz, who has coached in the county for 27 years. "Absolutely, something should be done, but it happened at Annapolis [High School]. Why not just do that at Annapolis?"
Roy Skiles, assistant superintendent for school administrative services at Anne Arundel schools, said there was a growing concern among principals about night stadium events, and specifically football games, because of the large number of spectators. Having more light will give administrators and police a "better ability to look at people coming in" to football stadiums, he said.
Football coaches countered that earlier start times unfairly singled out their sport and would keep some parents from attending their children's games and limit gate receipts for a sport that often is a high school athletic program's biggest moneymaker.
"I think this is going to hurt the parents," Annapolis Coach Brian Brown said. "It's not going to hurt any kids who want to come disrupt the game."
Since crowds for other sports are typically smaller than football, early starts will not be mandated in other sports, Skiles said.
"Personally, I take a little bit of an offense because they're singling out football [like] it's the only sport this can ever happen to," Broadneck Coach Jeff Herrick said.
The shooting at Annapolis came within weeks of two fatal attacks associated with football games in Montgomery County . Principals there were given the opportunity to reschedule Friday evening games, but only two games were moved, said William "Duke" Beattie, the county's coordinator of high school athletics.
"That was a tragedy, that girl dying," Rockville football coach Jack Freeman said of the fatal attack that occurred after Sherwood's game at Blake. "But it didn't have anything to do with night football."