Towson State football coach Phil Albert said he would not object to working without the benefit of scholarships, a prospect many other Division I colleges would face in the next three years if a reform proposal is approved at the NCAA convention in January.
The Tigers' program might be suspended at the end of this season. There is little hope that a proposed increase in the student athletic fee from $270 to $370 will be approved, and Towson State is looking at other ways to solve a budget deficit in its athletic program.
The school projects a two-year deficit of more than $257,000. Last week in a preliminary vote, the school's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee voted 8-1 to recommend eliminating football, the costliest sport.
From 1973 to '86, Towson State never finished below .500, but since moving to Division I-AA in 1987 the Tigers have gone 13-26, including 1-7 this year. In Division I-AA, schools can award 70 scholarships, but Towson State has the equivalent of only 43 to offer this year, still below the Division II limit of 45.
Towson State is spending approximately $330,000 on scholarships this year. Albert said he prefers to explore other avenues, but that he would be willing to direct a program that has no scholarships.
Many other Division I schools will be in that situation if Proposal 86 is accepted at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 7-11. Proposal 86 would prohibit a member of Division I from being classified in Division II or III in football. The formation of Division I-AAA, football on a non-scholarship basis, could be a reality by the 1992 NCAA convention.
"If that [Proposal 86] passes, Division I-AAA would be a viable solution to our problems," Albert said. "There would be a lot of quality institutions in a situation similar to ours, and I think the quality of play would be excellent."
Dr. Hoke L. Smith, the president of Towson State, ultimately will make the decision whether or not to keep football. Smith said that he will make a decision by Dec. 1, so that Albert knows where the program stands going into the recruiting season. Smith said that timetable lessens the prospective impact of Proposal 86.
"You're talking about a potential situation," Dr. Smith said. "We've discussed it, but I don't know what chance Division I-AAA stands."
If Proposal 86 is voted down, Division I schools could continue to field Division III football teams, another option for Towson State.
Wagner and Dayton won NCAA Division III championships in 1987 and '89, respectively, and the front-runner for national honors this year might be Hofstra, which like Towson State is a member of the East Coast Conference. All are Division I in other sports.
Among others, Division I schools currently playing Division III football are Georgetown, St. John's, St. Francis, Pa., and Marist.
Old Dominion athletic director James Jarrett wants to add football at his school, and has led the drive to start a Division I-AAA classification in football.
"There is a core of 35 to 40 schools who would be interested in Division I-AAA football," Jarrett said. "Besides the teams who could no longer play in Division III, there are some Division I-AAs who are looking for an alternative to losing a money every year. I think there's a real future for I-AAA football."
Towson State athletic director Bill Hunter floated another option.
"There have been conversations of late about a Division I-AA football conference where you have only 10 scholarships, or any number agreed upon," Hunter said. "You could join a group that would set up its own guidelines, play football on a level field."
All of the involved parties plan to attend an open forum of the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee Thursday (2:30 p.m.) at the Chesapeake Room of the University Union. It will make a recommendation to the Faculty Senate, which then will make a recommendation to Dr. Smith.
"In practice, I can veto any action of the Faculty Senate, but I never have," said Dr. Smith, Towson State's president since 1979. "I will attend the open forum Thursday. If people are going to come out, I should be there to listen."