Towson State athletic director Bill Hunter said school officials have no plans to drop football or any other sport. However, his department might have to make such cuts if it doesn't receive a budget increase it has requested.
Hunter was asked to comment on an item in The Evening Sun last Friday, in which columnist Bill Tanton reported a rumor that the Tigers might drop football because of a budget deficit and possible NCAA restructuring.
In January the NCAA will discuss and vote on proposals that would stiffen membership requirements for Division I. Hunter said that Towson State is committed to staying in Division I, which under proposed legislation would require the Tigers to remain Division I-AA in football.
"Because of the upcoming restructuring, we have evaluated our athletic program across the board," Hunter said. "The only thing that we've been able to ascertain is that we want to remain in Division I. Now it comes down to whether or not we're willing to make a financial commitment to do just that."
Hunter is awaiting word on his annual proposed budget to the school's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, which he said consists of five faculty members, four students and, in a non-voting role, the athletic department's faculty representative. After the sudden death of Jim Ewig last week, that position is vacant.
Towson State has 21 teams, and its athletic budget for the 1990-91 year is approximately $2.7 million. The bulk of the money is provided through student fees, with full-time students paying a $270 athletic fee this year. Hunter said he believes Towson State's is the highest such fee in Maryland.
Hunter said the budget request, which includes a rise in student fees that he declined to reveal, will be dealt with within a month.
"This is an annual process," Hunter said. "I submit a budget, and even though I've never had one turned down, I know it was tough getting it through last year. I'm trying to be as positive as possible, but with budget cuts being made across the state, I'm not sure what is going to happen."
If the budget increases Hunter is requesting aren't approved, the athletic department could drop certain sports. Hunter tried to do just that in the mid-1980s, when he proposed dropping men's and women's cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. But protests from alumni and the running community kept those programs alive, albeit on a minimal budget.
"If it comes down to us not getting the financial commitment we need and paring the budget, we're going to have to decide what sports we're going to suspend," Hunter said.
Hunter said it is ironic that Towson State is discussing cutting its athletic program after its most successful year in Division I.
In 1989-90, the Tigers made their first trip to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, bringing more than $57,000 to the athletic department. Women's gymnastics placed ninth in the nation. The soccer and men's and women's lacrosse teams won East Coast Conference championships.
More than 25 percent of the Towson State athletic budget, approximately $750,000, is spent on football. Men's basketball is the second-biggest expenditure, with a budget exceeding $300,000.
Despite football's large share of the budget, Towson State has one of the lowest-funded football teams in Division I-AA. It has just 44 scholarships, well below the NCAA limit of 70.