The Baltimore Catholic League, which has lost two marquee programs over the last two years, announced today the addition of two new members, as the fabled Baltimore basketball league has gained a new lease on life.

John Carroll, which competes with five of the six existing BCL members in the MIAA A Conference, will join the league immediately, participating in the 2010-2011 BCL regular season and tournament.

Mount Carmel, a member of the MIAA B Conference, will play in the BCL Tournament at the conclusion of the coming season, with plans to move to the MIAA A Conference and join the BCL full-time in 2011-2012.

“I’m delighted with the addition of two outstanding institutions,” said BCL commissioner Jack Degele.  “We lost two long-standing members over the last two years and to be able to replace them this quickly with quality schools is a blessing.”

The BCL founded in 1972 will be celebrating its 40th anniversary during the upcoming season, but it is an anniversary it almost didn’t reach.

In the summer of 2009, the BCL lost one of its charter members as Towson Catholic, home of one of the state’s most storied basketball programs, closed its doors.  Then this spring, just days after the 2009-2010 BCL Tournament concluded, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced that Cardinal Gibbons, home of another storied MIAA/BCL basketball program, would also shut down.

The loss of TC had already triggered conversations about closing down the BCL and the league was under threat even after it had begun regular season play last winter.  School heads were no longer convinced of the necessity for two post-season tournaments, consisting of virtually the same teams, and they were not fond of Sunday games, a BCL tradition for many years.  For two seasons earlier this decade, the MIAA and BCL did hold a combined tournament, but it was not a situation either organization enjoyed.  Both risked the possibility of seeing a team involved with only one of the leagues walk away with the tournament title.

Following the loss of Gibbons, there was increased sentiment to relegate the BCL, which also includes Archbishop Spalding, Calvert Hall, Loyola Blakefield, Mount St. Joseph, St. Frances and St. Maria Goretti, to the history books.  In the end, however, compromises were reached and the BCL will live on with two new members.

“The BCL has carried the standard for outstanding basketball in this area for 40 years,” said Degele.  “To add two up and coming programs with dedicated, hard working coaches is a tremendous point of growth for our league.”

Yielding to the wishes of the school heads, the league will no longer schedule Sunday games.  Schools may, on an individual basis, schedule Sunday games, but they will no longer be part of the league’s scheduling parameters.

The 2010-2011 BCL Tournament is now tentatively scheduled for the weekend of March 3-6, which is two weeks after the scheduled conclusion of the MIAA A Conference playoffs.  In the past, the two events bumped dangerously close to each other, especially when weather caused postponements.

Another addition to the BCL will be a service day which will take place some time between the two tournaments.  The yet to be determined event will feature players from all BCL teams performing some form of community service in uniform.

Last year, the BCL had begun accepting nominations for its inaugural Hall of Fame class.  The first enshrinement was being targeted for this year, but those plans stalled while the league went through its reorganization process.  According to Degele, planning for the Hall of Fame will soon resume.

John Carroll is led by head coach Tony Martin who led Archbishop Spalding to prominence in the BCL in the mid-nineties.  He also worked as an assistant at both Gibbons and Mount St. Joe.  Martin is entering his sixth season at John Carroll, where he took over a program which was winless in 2004-2005.  Two years later the Patriots set a school record with 28 wins.

Tom Rose has done nothing but win at Mount Carmel.  He was hired prior to the 2002-2003 season and won the MIAA C Conference crown two years later.  His club then moved to the B Conference and won two titles in three trips to the league championship game over the last five seasons.

“We’re honored to have the opportunity to compete in this prestigious league and tournament,” said Mount Carmel athletic director Mike Naunton. “The history of the legendary coaches and players is very lengthy. We’re looking forward to be part of the BCL tradition for years to come.”