The fate of the Towson State University football program and resolution of the athletic department's budget crisis were placed on hold yesterday by the school's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee.
The nine-member panel announced yesterday that it plans to make its recommendations after digesting the Division I restructuring policy that is expected to emerge from the January 1991 National Collegiate Athletic Association Convention.
"We want to be careful on this and think it through," said committee chairman John Connolly, a professor in the school's English department.
Faced with a projected two-year operating deficit of $257,018 in the athletic department's budget, school officials floated a plan to boost the yearly athletic fee paid by the 9,200 full-time students from $270 to $370. Officials say that without the $100 rise, they may be forced to suspend the football program after 22 years of operation. Football takes a $734,936 chunk of the $2.9 million 1990-91 budget.
Connolly said the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee will hold open forums in November and December to discuss the direction of the athletic program and gauge support for the proposed fee hike.
"I don't think that sort of thing [a fee hike] will fly," Connolly said. "These are fiscally conservative times."
The NCAA's plan to restructure and toughen admission standards for its 294 Division I members -- to be debated at the organization's convention, Jan. 7-11, in Nashville, Tenn. -- also drives the debate at Towson State.
To remain in the top classification, the school likely will need to retain its Division I-AA football status -- or drop the sport entirely. A shift of the football team into Division II or III could result in the entire athletic program losing its Division I status.
Towson State also probably will have to increase scholarships to a core of 14 sports to meet the proposed tougher standards.
"We want to know what, in fact, the NCAA will do and what the implications will be for Towson State, rather than make a decision based on speculation," Connolly said.
Towson State football coach Phil Albert said he hoped the committee could reach a decision on the program's future before the NCAA convention.
"We have about 20 prospective players coming to each home game over the next six weeks," Albert said. "To get young men to commit a visit to a school that may not have a sport will be very difficult. I think it would be unfair to our current football team. There will be speculating, 'What if we don't have football? Should I have transferred in the middle of the school year?' "
What will Albert tell potential recruits?
"I want to be upfront with the kids I talk to," he said. "Our university is reviewing the total budget. I don't foresee us dropping our football program, and we want to continue the recruiting process. How will the recruits buy that? I don't know."