Scrambling Will alumni's two-minute drill be enough to save Towson State football program?

October 30, 1990|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Evening Sun Staff

Sean Landeta and Dave Meggett would like to be in the Chesapeake Room at Towson State's University Union Thursday afternoon. They would tell the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee what playing football at Towson meant to them. They would argue vehemently for the continuation of the sport.

But they won't get the chance. Not in person, anyway.

At 2:35 p.m. Thursday, five minutes after an open forum on the state of Towson football starts, Landeta and Meggett will begin punt return practice for the New York Giants in the Meadowlands -- Landeta kicking, Meggett catching.

Their message of perseverance will arrive in the form of a letter, though. Tony Agnone, a Baltimore attorney who represents both NFL players, said yesterday he will submit such a letter to university president Dr. Hoke L. Smith today.

The debate that grows out of Thursday's forum could go a long way toward determining the fate of Towson State football, jeopardized by a budget deficit in the school's athletic department.

What puzzles Agnone is that a decision is so close at hand.

"It was not known beforehand that this was the 11th hour," he said. "That was not told to anybody. My hope is that the committee still has an open mind to suggestions."

Landeta, who played at Towson from 1979-82, and Meggett, who played in 1987-88, are the two most well-known alums of the football program. Both have played in the NFL's Pro Bowl.

While they are adamant that football should continue, there appears to be no significant effort by Towson alumni to ensure that it does. In fact, Ron Peterson, the president of the school's Alumni Association, suggested there is an air of indifference with former students.

"There is no groundswell for it one way or the other," said Peterson, who retired recently after 35 years in the Baltimore City public school system. "Last week I spoke to two different groups of alums and they seemed to be split. It was surprising to me. There was no push one way or the other."

Bill Stetka, director of Alumni Services at Towson, said his department was not being overwhelmed with response to reports the university may suspend the program starting next year.

"The best gauges we've had," Stetka said, "are the amount of money raised through the Tiger Club and attendance at games."

Average attendance at Minnegan Stadium with three home games left this season is 2,047, lowest since the program became Division I-AA in 1987.

Meggett can hardly believe there is talk of shutting down the program.

"You can't believe everything you hear or read," he said. "It's a positive program. It helps a lot of student-athletes. This is surprising to me. They've only had a couple of losing seasons since 1973. Coach [Phil] Albert is not a losing coach. This is very shocking to me."

So shocking that Meggett, summoning his optimism, finally declared, "The program is definitely going to be there next year."

Landeta said he was "deeply concerned" over the reports. If he could attend Thursday's forum, he said he would "try to let [Dr. Smith] know that he may not realize how many thousands had their lives directly influenced in a positive manner by Towson State football. And not just players.

"The values you learn going through four years of college football have a tremendously positive effect in dealing with jobs and life in general."

Landeta's advice for remedying the budget crisis is to scale back the athletic program in other areas. Instead of making 10 men's sports and 10 women's sports available, he said the program should be cut to five men's and five women's teams, "and try to concentrate on being outstanding in every one of those. That would be a viable alternative."

The Alumni Association's Peterson calls himself a "fatalist -- what will be, will be.

"Dr. Smith made a presentation to the Alumni's board of directors and explained the options," Peterson said. "I told him, 'This is one time I don't envy you sitting in the president's seat.'

"Whatever Dr. Smith does will be well-thought out and will be best for the university."

TIGER ATTENDANCE

Average attendance at Towson State's home football games since the program became Division I-AA in 1987:

Season Avg.

*1990 2,047

1989 3,003

1988 2,448

1987 2,996

* Three home games remaining.

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